Hawkins on Medical Marijuana and Cuomo

Hawkins on Medical Marijuana and Cuomo

Statement by Howie Hawkins, June 18, 2014

The obstacles Cuomo has thrown up in recent days to obstruct the proposed medical marijuana bill goes against the vast consensus of medical and scientific opinion. Cuomo is perpetuating the pain and suffering of seriously ill patients who would benefit from medical marijuana.

The medical marijuana bill reportedly has the votes pass in both chambers of the state legislature. But Cuomo now stands in the way. Cuomo's claim to be any kind of progressive is mocked by his refusal to allow New York to join the 22 other states and District of Columbia that allow access to medical marijuana.

Governor Cuomo is beyond being puritanical in being opposed to the use of marijuana. He is excessively punitive toward those who partake.

Cuomo's jihad against marijuana goes beyond medical marijuana. By opposing the legalization of the recreational use of marijuana, he is perpetuating New York State's dubious status as the marijuana arrest capital of the world with around 50,000 arrests a year.

Cuomo's marijuana prohibition stance is as counterproductive as alcohol prohibition was. It may be good for organized crime and the prison industry. But it is devastating to health and public safety, particularly in the poor communities of color that have been targeted by the war on drugs.

It is time to legalize, regulate, and tax recreational marijuana as Colorado and Washington state now do.

Marijuana madness extends even to industrial hemp, a member of the cannabis plant family but without the psychoactive doses of THC that marijuana has. For thousands of years, hemp has been an important food, fuel, and fiber crop. But the United States criminalized it along with marijuana in 1937, with the 1942 to 1945 exception of “Hemp for Victory” farming during World War II.

It is time to re-legalize industrial hemp as well as marijuana.

The one piece of good news on the cannabis front is that a bill to permit colleges and universities to grow hemp for research purposes was passed last week by both chambers of the state legislature with only 2 no votes in the Senate. A provision in the 2014 federal Farm bill permits such research if a state passes enabling legislation. This law will make New York the eleventh state in the nation to pass legislation promoting the growing of hemp. Cuomo has not said whether he will sign the bill. But he probably cannot stop it given the veto proof majorities that passed it.

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