Weekly Wrapup: Medical Cannabis Measure in NY + DOJ to Address Marijuana Legalization

By Chris Walsh

Medical marijuana is already legal in the nation’s official capital (on a local level, that is). This summer, it might also be legal in the nation’s cultural and financial capital.

As we wrote about last week, a New York senator plans to introduce an MMJ bill in both the state Assembly and Senate within the next few days. Sen. Diane Savino said support among lawmakers is strong, adding that her measure could potentially even clear the Senate – where previous marijuana bills have died – if a vote were held today.

If her assessment of the political winds is accurate, New York might very well become the 19th state to legalize medical marijuana by the time its current legislative session wraps up on June 20.

While many medical marijuana proposals are on the table across the country this year, the effort to legalize MMJ in New York is of particular interest to the cannabis industry given the state’s influence nationally – and even internationally.

Legalization in the Empire State wouldn’t create a huge market, at least at first. The bill will suggest a fairly limited list of qualifying medical conditions, meaning patient numbers would likely total in the tens of thousands, Savino said. That would put it way under the estimated 750,000 to 1 million in California and even the 100,000-plus in Colorado, Michigan and Washington State.

Still, New York’s program would likely rank alongside Oregon and Arizona in the second tier of MMJ states in terms of patient numbers, and it would generate tens of millions in revenue and create hundreds of business opportunities. Just as importantly, it would mean a great deal to the MMJ movement in general, as it could sway lawmakers and voters who are on the fence about medical marijuana in other states. And New York has the potential to grow into an industry powerhouse if the list of qualifying conditions is expanded or if this paves the way for recreational legalization sometime in the future.

Stay tuned as this plays out.

Also last week, we wrote about how the Department of Justice plans to officially address marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington. Attorney General Eric Holder said the DOJ will outline its policies soon after it finishes an in-depth review of the situation.

Couldn’t he have just said that from the start? The federal government has been extremely vague about state-level legalization and how it will respond when retail marijuana stores start opening in Colorado and Washington, leaving the cannabis industry on pins and needles. In fact, the government hadn’t given any indication at all of when it would respond, until Holder’s recent comments.

Both states are already well into the process for establishing rules covering recreational marijuana. It would be a colossal waste of time and resources if the government decided to challenge the marijuana laws after officials and communities have spent so much time on the issue so far.

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Q&A With Robert Kane on Plans for Cannabis R&D, Treatment Facility in Canada

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