By Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director
More than 100,000 New York City residents suffering from serious medical conditions such as cancer and chronic pain could benefit from legal access to cannabis therapy, according to a report released today by the New York City Comptroller's Office. The mission of the Comptroller's Office is to ensure the financial health of New York City by advising the Mayor, the City Council, and the public of the City's financial condition.
The report, entitled "100,000 Reasons: Medical Marijuana in the Big Apple," finds that some 8 out of 10 New Yorkers endorse permitting patient access to medical cannabis, and estimates that at least 100,000 City residents would immediately benefit from its legalization.
"[W]e believe this is a conservative estimate," authors of the report state, "because registration for medical marijuana programs in the various states falls short of the potential. Patients experience social stigma and related social sanctions for using medical marijuana, and many doctors are not familiar with its benefits. Moreover, the federal government has created unnecessary obstacles for academic and research institutions to study marijuana, thereby impeding research that could lead to a broader use of medical marijuana."
The report endorses various legal and legislative efforts to amend state and federal marijuana laws. Locally, the report's authors recommend that New York City establish a 'Medical Cannabis Research Fund' to engage in clinical study of the plant; they further proposes the establishment of cannabis grow operations at selected public hospitals. The report also recommends that health insurance providers be required cover some costs related to medical cannabis expenses.
"In the 1980s, New York State acknowledged marijuana's medicinal value and supported research for chemotherapy patients," the report concludes. "Even though the findings were impressive, the State stopped there. Thirty years later, New York still denies seriously ill patients access to this evidence-based treatment, even as 20 states and Washington D.C. have legalized it. ... Today, at least 100,000 New York City residents with the same afflictions could benefit from the same relief. By following the recommendations outlined in this report, we can hit the ground running where we left off just 30 years ago and make a meaningful impact for New Yorkers suffering today and for years to come."
The Comptroller's Office had previously issued a report estimating that regulating and taxing marijuana for New York City residents age 21 and over would yield an estimated $431 million in annual savings and revenue.
New York City Comptroller and Mayoral candidate John Liu has campaigned on the issue of legalizing cannabis for medical and non-medical purposes. Speaking at a press conference today he said, "Marijuana's medical value is well-established, but it is still routinely denied to patients and researchers. It's time for that to change, and New York City government can play a role in reshaping our understanding of marijuana's medical uses. We should leverage our City's tremendous medical, bioscience, and academic resources to lead the way in medical marijuana research in order to make a meaningful impact on suffering for years to come."
Full text of the Comptroller's report is available here.