New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been praised previously here at NCC since he has supported marijuana decriminalization, even informing Empire State legislators that they would have to decriminalize up to 15 grams of cannabis if they hoped to receive their first pay raise since 1999. Governor Cuomo then went on to make a passionate plea for decriminalization in hisState of the State speech, citing the racial disparities of arrests and the needless hurdles these arrests place in the lives of those arrested. While we admire politicians that promote common sense cannabis law reform, particularly those contemplating a presidential run, we still must take them to task when necessary.
Below is an excerpt of an open letter, published in The Huffington Post, to Governor Cuomo from Dr. Sunil Aggarwal regarding Cuomo’s hesitation to vocally support medical marijuana legislation.
An Open Letter to New York Governor Cuomo: If You Are Strongly In Favor of Marijuana Decriminalization, It is Hypocritical to be Against Medical Marijuana
In your 2013 State of the State Address, you said:
[There are] roughly 50,000 arrests in New York City for marijuana possession [every year]… Of those 50,000 arrests, 82 percent are black and Hispanic… These arrests stigmatize, they criminalize, they create a permanent record. It’s not fair, it’s not right, it must end and it must end now… Stop stigmatizing these young people, making it harder to find a job, making it harder to get into school, making it harder to turn their lives around.
I applaud you for your support of the decriminalization of marijuana in NY State. But when it comes to supporting the bill in Albany to allow for the use of marijuana for medical purposes by those who have been authorized its use by a doctor, you have not raised your voice in support and have fallen back on the federal government’s position. I find this quite hypocritical. When you stand for marijuana decriminalization, you support the idea that a New Yorker should not be treated as a wrong-doing social outcast when they carry in their possession a certain amount of marijuana. But your position is antithetical to the federal law which calls for up to one year in prison and a fine of $1,000 for possessing any amount of marijuana-zero tolerance. With a third possession offence under federal law, one can be charged with a felony, be sentenced to at least a mandatory 90 days in prison or a maximum of five years, and be fined up to $5,000. For cultivating one marijuana plant, one can face up to five years in federal prison. This is severe stigmatization that you clearly do not endorse given your support of stopping New York state from following along with the utter folly of the United States Criminal Code.
See, it is hypocritical to dissent from the federal position on marijuana criminalization and at the same time endorse their out-of-touch position on marijuana’s medical utility and safety. Respectfully, Governor, what makes you think that their position on marijuana can be trusted at all? To not support medical marijuana is like saying science and compassion for patients can wait until we let the federal government sort out and acknowledge their mistakes. But the sick should not have to wait for that. To use your words, “It’s not fair, it’s not right, it must end and it must end now.”
Sunil Aggarwal, MD, PhD
Resident Physician in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at a Large Academic Medical Center in New York City
As an admirer of Governor Cuomo, hopeful that he runs for president and helps make cannabis law reform a prominent issue during the Democratic primary, I am optimistic that he will follow Dr. Aggarwal’s advice and strongly support medical cannabis legislation this session. You can help by contacting Governor Cuomo and urge him to support medical marijuana legislation that can greatly improve the lives of New York’s patients.
Republished with special permission from the National Cannabis Coalition