New York Governor Andrew Cuomo gave his State of the State address on Jan. 8 and in it he announced the creation of a pilot program to introduce the use of medical marijuana in the state. The governor is using his existing authority, from a 1980 law, to order the Department of Health to establish a therapeutic research program for marijuana. Marijuana remains a controlled substance, illegal to grow, possess or use under both federal and state law.
On the governor's Twitter account, the proposal was described as "Pilot program will evaluate effectiveness & feasibility of a medical marijuana system in #NYS." "We will establish a program allowing up to 20 hospitals to prescribe medical #marijuana to patients being treated for serious illnesses."
On Jan. 6, Forbes asked "Where Will Andrew Cuomo Get His Medical Marijuana?" It remains illegal to grow the plant in New York. Shipping marijuana across state lines is a violation of federal law. The article points out that the Federal Government grows a small amount of marijuana for the few patients approved under the Compassionate Investigational New Drug Program. Obtaining a supply from that source will require agreement from several agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
One alternative discussed is to use some of the confiscated marijuana that New York police agencies usually dispose of after it is no longer needed as evidence. This would violate federal law and open the police officers involved to prosecution for federal drug crimes.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has a webpage titled "Is Marijuana Medicine?" It points out that marijuana is a plant which contains a number of substances that may have an effect on the human body, or may interact with other medications. NIDA funds a number of marijuana research programs. NIDA has this to say about its research:
Marijuana leaves contain numerous poorly understood or even toxic chemicals besides THC. It is also difficult to standardize dosages of a highly variable herb delivered in cigarettes or food...
The most well-known ingredient in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). A synthetic form of the drug has been approved for use. The medication is called dronabinol and is sold under the brand name Marinol. It is prescribed by physicians for nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy and for anorexia in patients with AIDS.
Dronabinol carries an extensive list of medications that it may interact with, including amphetamines, anticoagulants, antidepressants, antihistamines, muscle relaxants and many other classes of medications and specific drugs. The drug may also be habit forming, and withdrawal symptoms can occur. Alcohol use can worsen the medication's side effects.