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New York Governor Signs Bill to Expedite Access to Medical Cannabis

Governor Andrew Cuomo made an unexpected move today to support critically ill patients in New York by signing two bills that will establish an “emergency medical marijuana” program two months before medical marijuana was to debut in New York.

This isn’t the first time cannabis advocates have pushed for emergency access in New York. Governor Cuomo faced tremendous pressure last year from various advocacy groups after he released the 18 month-long timeline for medical marijuana in New York. Last December, in an effort to gain media support, Compassionate Care NY urged Governor Cuomo to implement a program allowing access to medical cannabis for critically ill patients. The group used Twitter and Facebook as platforms, incorporating the hashtag #MyHolidayWish.

The #MyHolidayWish campaign was created as a response to the deaths of four children in the New York area. All were critically ill – three suffered from seizure disorders and another from brain cancer – and were awaiting access to medical marijuana when they died.

Governor Cuomo has never buckled under the pressure, instead neglecting to make emergency expedited access to medical marijuana a priority until today. The bills he signed will create a “special certification” for patients whose condition is degenerative or “for whom a delay in the patient’s certified use of medical marihuana poses a serious risk to the person’s life or health.”

Along with his signature, Cuomo released a statement in which he expressed that he “deeply sympathized with New Yorkers suffering from chronic illness, and [he appreciates] that medical marijuana may alleviate their chronic pain and debilitating symptoms.”

Hopefully, this emergency access program will ensure that New York won’t lose any more patients before the program opens in January 2016. A hearty thanks to you, Governor Cuomo — it's about time.

Image Source (Cropped): Diana Robinson via Flickr Creative Commons