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Cuomo gives Limited Access to Marijuana in New York

Patience Edet Goanue | 1/28/2014, 2:24 p.m.

Cancer patients and those suffering other serious illnesses can now obtain medical marijuana in 20 hospitals in New York, announced Governor Andrew Cuomo in his January 8 State of the State address.

Marijuana

During the address at the Empire State Plaza Convention, the governor said glaucoma and other life threatening diseases approved by the Commission of Health can have legal access marijuana.

He made the executive action reviving the 1980 Law known as the Antonio G. Olivieri Controlled Substance Therapeutic Research Program, which allows New York to set up a limited medical marijuana model.

“We will monitor the program to evaluate the effectiveness and the feasibility of a medical marijuana system,” said Cuomo.

There have been calls by care givers in New York for the State government to to join California, Alaska, Arizona and others to legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Drug reform groups have also hoped a more sweeping legalization of marijuana would be forthcoming from the governor.

The American Civil Liberties Union argue that the aggressive enforcement of marijuana possession laws “needlessly ensnares hundreds of thousands of people into the criminal justice system and wastes billions of taxpayers’ dollars. What’s more, it is carried out with staggering racial bias.” The union claims that despite being a priority for police departments nationwide, the War on Marijuana has failed to reduce marijuana use and availability and “diverted resources that could be better invested in our communities.” Blacks and Hispanics are reported to make up 82 percent of those locked up for marijuana offenses.

Taxes

Governor Cuomo also announced a $2 billion tax freeze for renters, property and business owners and upstate manufacturers. The proposal calls for a freeze on property taxes for two years. He explained that New Yorkers pay high taxes because of the many districts and government entities that have the power to tax.

“As long as you have 10,500 entities that you support every morning, you're not going to make significant difference in property taxes,” said Cuomo.

The governor however pointed out that the suite of tax cuts is linked to a town, village or school district's adherence to a 2 percent “cap” on yearly tax increases. He said it is also linked to the ability of those areas to reduce costs through shared services or consolidation.

Education Reform

The governor's State of the State address also highlighted his plans for education in New York. He proposed a $2 billion “Smart Schools" bond referendum to help bring all of New York schools to today’s high-speed, high-tech world. If approved by voters, the initiative will provide students with state-of-the-art classrooms and leverage technology to transform education. “Smart Schools" funds will be allocated to each school district.

Mr. Cuomo announced that bonuses will be given to teachers who perform well. Building on the universal implementation of the teacher evaluation system, the Governor proposed creating a Teacher Excellence Fund to help school districts reward the most effective teachers. Highly effective teachers in participating school districts will be eligible for up to $20,000 in annual supplemental compensation through the Teacher Excellence Fund.