City and State: Joint effort: Where key players stand on legalizing recreational marijuana in New York

By Grace Seegers, April 20

Recreational marijuana has recently been high on the list of priorities for New York politicians. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon has made legalization an important part of her campaign, while Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s opinions seem to be evolving. The Republican gubernatorial candidates, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro and state Sen. John DeFrancisco, did not return requests for comment on their positions on recreational marijuana, although DeFrancisco did vote against the bill which legalized medical marijuana in New York in 2014.

Meanwhile, legislation is under consideration in the state Legislature that would legalize recreational marijuana, although it faces stiff opposition. In honor of 4/20, here is an in the weed(s) look at the politicians who are blazing the trail for legalizing recreational marijuana in New York, and the ones who are harshing the mellow.


Assemblyman Dick Gottfried & State Sen. Liz Krueger

The long-time chairman of the Assembly Health Committee is a staunch advocate of making marijuana more accessible. He helped to write the law which legalized medical marijuana in the state for a narrow set of conditions and does not allow patients to smoke it but imbibe through other means, but has criticized it for being too restrictive. He has introduced legislation to allow people to smoke marijuana and to loosen the restrictions on which afflictions qualify for medical marijuana use. Gottfried is also an Assembly sponsor of the Marijuana Taxation and Regulation Act. This bill would legalize marijuana for adults over 21, which Gottfried has said is “long overdue” in New York.

Krueger is also an advocate of legalizing recreational marijuana. She is the Senate sponsor of the Taxation and Regulation Act, which has previously stalled in the Republican-controlled state Senate. Krueger’s position is that prohibition of recreational marijuana “disproportionately affects communities of color and wastes valuable law enforcement resources.”

The Alt: Cannibalizing cannabis: Threats to New York’s medicinal aid

By Katie Cusack, 4/18/18

In 2009, Frances Keeffe–Granny Franny, as her grandchildren called her–of Scarsdale, New York was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). By the end of her life, her granddaughter Hillary Peckham said, Franny was on more than 20 medications. Each one came with an onslaught of side effects.

“She had to be quarantined for the last few months of her life because of that,” Peckham said. “You’re not gonna cure ALS. It’s, ‘How can we can deal with these symptoms?’”

A doctor approached the family, asking, “Why don’t you try marijuana?”

“At that point it still wasn’t legal, my grandmother wasn’t interested and we had no idea where we could find something, so it wasn’t an option for her but it really sparked my mom looking into this industry to see if it might be a solution,” Peckham said. “We started learning about the quality of life improvement it was giving people without all the side effects of pharmaceutical drugs.” By the time she graduated college, Peckham and her mother set off building Etain, New York’s only women-owned medical marijuana company.

Press Release: Penn Station Double Outrage as Governor Jams Legislature and Usurps City Government

For Immediate Release

Penn Station Double Outrage as Governor Jams Legislature and Usurps City Government

Statement by Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried

     “After the Assembly leadership made clear to Governor Cuomo that we would not agree to his effort to take control of the area around Penn Station, the Governor has jammed his Penn Station bill into the final giant budget bill delivered to the Legislature on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. This extraordinarily hostile gesture puts the Legislature in a position of accepting his plan or shutting down government.

“It is wrong for the Governor to try to take over urban planning, traffic management and real estate development in New York City. That’s what this bill is aimed at. A project in the middle of midtown that is this large, complex, and important must be a collaborative effort and vision, including the Governor as well as the Mayor, along with area residents and businesses, the community board, and the area’s elected officials.

“The area’s elected officials — City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Representative Jerry Nadler, State Senator Brad Hoylman and I – along with Mayor Bill de Blasio all opposed this last-minute power grab against the City’s elected local government. None of this overwhelming local opposition mattered to Governor Cuomo.

“The closing days of the state budget process is not the time to do this. This proposal, which did not appear in the Governor’s original budget bill in January, has nothing whatsoever to do with the State’s fiscal plan and should be discussed outside of the budget process. I thank Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie for his strong support for my insistence on a full community input process on this issue.”


Truthout: Single-Payer Health Care Takes Center Stage in Gubernatorial Races

By Michael Corcoran, March 29

Illinois state senator Daniel Biss recently ran for governor on a platform that included support for single-payer. Biss lost, however, in the primary last month against billionaire J.B. Pritzker, who outspent his opponents by tens of millions in a campaign costing a “jaw dropping $63 million,” according to The Hill.

For single-payer advocates, the electoral defeat was disappointing, despite a respectable second-place finish for Biss. The good news, however, as Michael Lighty, public policy director of the California Nurses Association told Truthout, is that “we are seeing [gubernatorial] candidates running for offices across the country running on single-payer, many of them are viable.”

Indeed, supporters of the policy are running in California, New York, Michigan, Massachusetts, Iowa, Ohio, Minnesota, Florida, Maryland, Vermont and Colorado. “This is unprecedented,” Lighty said of the development.

NY Post: Cuomo’s budget would scrap audits protecting doctors from being overworked

By Carl Campanile, 3/19

Gov. Cuomo’s budget plan scraps rigorous state audits of hospitals that help make sure resident doctor-interns aren’t severely overworked and exhausted on the job — and critics worry that could imperil patient safety.

The audits — conducted by an independent contractor hired by the state — enforce the Libby Zion Law, named after the 18-year-old daughter of the late New York Times writer Sydney Zion, who died from botched care at a Manhattan hospital in 1984.

The law requires that doctor-interns at 100 teaching hospitals work no more than 80 hours per week, or 24 consecutive hours — and facilities hit with violations get slapped with financial penalties.

But Cuomo’s $68 billion spending plan would eliminate the audits — considered the nation’s most stringent because the law allows for surprise inspections and reviews of payroll data.

WAMC: Brain Injury Association of New York Rallies at Capitol (w/ Audio)

By Elizabeth Hill, 3/21 (audio in link)

The Brain Injury Association of New York State held a rally at the state capitol in Albany Tuesday.

About 150 supporters of the Brain Injury Association of New York State gathered at the legislature for a day of action, visibility and advocacy. The organization says thousands of New Yorkers suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury are in need of vital services. Eileen Reardon is the group’s Executive Director:

“As we attend meetings, and speak with policymakers today we speak from the heart on the issues and make them recognize the needs of this community. Together we show strength, together we will make a difference, together we are the voice of brain injury,” said Reardon.

Advocates spoke out against Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget plan, which includes a proposal to raise the threshold of assessment that qualifies individuals for Medicaid Waiver programs. The Medicaid Waiver Programs allow states to treat certain Medicaid populations at home or in other community-based settings rather than in institutional or long-term care facilities like hospitals or nursing homes. Victoria Clingan, Director of Engagement and Advocacy for BIANYS (Bee-AN-US), says the changes just wouldn’t work.

American Journal of Public Health: Single-Payer Plan for New York Could Lead the Country

By Richard N. Gottfried, March 7

After the Las Vegas mass shooting in October, a Nevada official set up a GoFundMe page to help pay the medical bills of survivors. GoFundMe has a medical fundraising category with disease-specific sample pages and staff assistance to “make sure you tell a compelling story.” This is unacceptable in the wealthiest country in history.

In one third of American families, someone goes without needed health care. Insurance companies take 15 to 20 cents of each premium dollar for administrative costs, marketing, and profit, as compared with only two to three cents in traditional Medicare. Physicians, hospitals, and other providers spend just under 25% of their revenue on administrative costs. Twenty-eight million Americans remain uninsured and another 30 million are underinsured, with high deductibles or out-of-pocket costs.

Rising premiums, deductibles, copays, and out-of-network charges—imposed without regard to ability to pay—contribute to economic inequality. Insurance companies tell us which health care providers and services they will cover. In the case of labor unions, health benefits are a crushing burden on collective bargaining, crowding out negotiations for wages and other benefits and causing strikes. Almost every problem we face in health care—as patients, providers, employers, and taxpayers—is made worse and more difficult to solve by our reliance on health insurance companies.

Daily News: Assembly members demand Manhattan DA reverse policy letting NYPD prosecute activists’ summons cases

By Shayna Jacobs, 3/6/18

Seven lawmakers are pushing for the Manhattan district attorney to withdraw from a controversial policy in which the NYPD was given authority to prosecute activists in summons cases, the Daily News has learned.

Assemblyman Dan Quart (D-Manhattan) and colleagues are urging DA Cy Vance Jr. to rescind his delegation of violations to the NYPD’s Legal Bureau — a policy that allows department lawyers to play prosecutor in summons court.

The collective, in a sharply worded letter to be delivered Tuesday, is asking Vance to “rescind” the permission he gave to the department in a February 2016 agreement.

It is the subject of a lawsuit following the 2016 protest arrests of two Black Lives Matter activists.

The police department sought the access to the low-level court proceedings — that are not even usually handled by a prosecutor — as a way to try to minimize potential future exposure in lawsuits, The News previously reported.

Vance has “made himself and his office into an appendage for insulating the NYPD from civil liability,” Quart charged Monday.

The letter is endorsed by assembly members Inez Dickens, Daniel O’Donnell, Rebecca Seawright, Robert Rodriguez and Richard Gottfried; Sen. Liz Krueger and City Councilmember Carlina Rivera.

Legislative Gazette: Legislators unite with advocates to revamp rights for sexual assault survivors

By Alexa Appel, 3/5/18

Sexual assault survivors often lose the ability to take legal action against their attacker since they are not aware of their rights.

New York Senator Kemp Hannon, R-Garden City, and Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, D-Astoria, were joined by survivors of sexual assault to discuss the importance of expanding the rights of sexual assault survivors.

There is currently a three-bill package in the senate (S.6428A, S.6947A, S.6964A) that is focused on creating a Survivor’s Bill of Rights, maintaining unreported rape kits for 20 years, creating a rape kit tracking system, establishing a sexual assault forensic examination (S.A.F.E.) telemedicine pilot program and ensuring victims are never billed for exams.

“This package of bills makes sure survivor rights are clearly spelled out, unreported kits are maintained according to federal best practices, all victims have access to specially trained sexual assault providers, and that hospitals are not inappropriately charging survivors,” Hannon said.

Currently, hospitals retain rape kits for 30 days before discarding them. If a victim leaves the hospital, choosing to take time instead of submitting their kit to NYPD at that moment, the location of their kit becomes unknown and unavailable. There is no tracking system that ensures the kits not get destroyed.

Legislative Gazette: Some lawmakers say that a growing opioid epidemic reflects need for ‘safe injection’ sites

By Otto Kratky, 2/20/18

As a way to keep needles out of public spaces, and to prevent overdose deaths, Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal and 18 co-sponsors are advocating for a bill that would provide safe injection facilities where opioid drug abusers can safely “use” in New York state.

Staff members at these facilities would provide sterile injection supplies, collect used hypodermic needles and syringes, and teach patients about safe consumption practices. Patients will also be able to access referrals to addiction treatment, job training, and other social services.