Assembly Codes Committee Passes Bill to Allow Medicinal Use of Marijuana in New York State

Press Release April 29, 2013
Media Contact

<p>Contact: Tony Newman 646-335-5384 or gabriel sayegh 646-335-2264</p>

Earlier today, the New York State Assembly Codes Committee passed (A.6357/Gottfried) by a vote of 16 to 6.  The bill would alleviate the suffering of thousands of seriously ill New Yorkers by allowing the use of marijuana to treat debilitating, life-threatening illnesses under a doctor’s supervision.

The Compassionate Care Act – A.6357 (Gottfried) / S.4406 (Savino) – would allow healthcare practitioners to talk to their patients about medical marijuana and certify those with serious, debilitating illnesses, so that they may have access to a small amount of medical marijuana to relieve their symptoms.

The bill, which would create one of the nation’s most tightly regulated medical marijuana programs, has the support of hundreds of patients and providers and dozens of organizations across the state; a 2012 Siena poll found that a strong majority of New Yorkers support medical marijuana, 61%-33%.

"As a stage 4 metastatic cancer patient I can't be cured, but medical marijuana improves the quality of my life and allows me to be me, rather than at the mercy of my disease. Why can't we have the best possible lives in the time we have left?" asked Beverly McClain, New York City resident and member of Compassionate Care New York, a group of patients, healthcare providers and organizations who support the Compassionate Care Act.

The bill also enjoys wide support from healthcare providers and organizations, such as the New York State Nurses Association, the Collaborative for Palliative Care, GMHC, New York State Pharmacists Society, and the Hospice and Palliative Care Association of New York.

"The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) supports this legislation because we believe that it creates a carefully controlled system allowing seriously ill New Yorkers to take advantage of the therapeutic and palliative benefits of medical marijuana under the supervision of their healthcare provider,” said Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, First Vice President, NYSNA Board of Directors.

Eighteen other states and the District Columbia have passed medical marijuana laws; with the exception of Pennsylvania, New York is now surrounded by states that permit legal access to medical marijuana.  But in New York, patients must still risk being criminalized just for using a medication that relieves their pain and suffering.

"I am convinced by studies showing the benefit of medical cannabis for chronic and neuropathic pain, appetite stimulation, and nausea. More and more doctors are using medical marijuana in states where it is legal. It doesn't make sense that doctors in New York cannot use medical marijuana in their practice,” said Craig D. Blinderman, MD, MA, Director, Adult Palliative Care Services, Co-Director, Center for Supportive Care and Clinical Ethics, Department of Medicine, Columbia University.

The New York proposal was drafted with careful, strict controls: under tight regulation, a patient who has been certified by a healthcare practitioner to use medical marijuana would register with the New York State Department of Health and receive a patient identification card. Specially approved organizations would dispense the marijuana to registered patients, under DOH supervision.

“We are pleased the Assembly Codes Committee has seen the value of this legislation.  Now it’s time for the legislature to pass this sensible and compassionate legislation,” said gabriel sayegh, State Director of DPA’s New York Policy Office.  “New York is way behind the curve on this issue, and New Yorkers living with cancer, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS and other serious illnesses should not have to wait any longer to get relief.”

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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