Long Island Patients and Community Members Rally in Long Island in Support of Medical Marijuana Bill

Press Release June 13, 2013
Media Contact

<p>Contact: Julie Netherland 347-781-5435</p>

Garden City, Long Island – Today, patients and community members from across Long Island gathered at the Garden City, LIRR train station to mobilize supporters of New York’s medical marijuana bill. They collected signatures and handed out flyers urging their neighbors to contact senate leadership and demand a vote on the Compassionate Care Act (A. 6357-Gottfreid / S. 4406- Savino) before the end of the legislative session on June 20th. The bill, which would create one of the nation’s most tightly regulated medical marijuana programs, would allow seriously ill patients access to a small amount of marijuana under the supervision of their healthcare provider.

A recent poll by Siena College founds that an astonishing 82% of New York voters, including 81% of both Democrats and Republicans support medical marijuana for seriously ill patients. Earlier this month, the Assembly passed the bill with bipartisan vote of 99-41, the widest margin of the four times the bill has been passed in that chamber.

“We hit the streets of Long Island today to urge our neighbors to support the bill and to show our leaders in Albany how badly this legislation is needed,” said lifelong Long Island resident Tracy Ofri, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1978. “I run a support group for people living with MS on Long Island. Like me, many of the members want the option of talking to their doctors and using medical marijuana to help ease pain and spasticity when other treatments fail. It’s time for our leaders in Albany to listen to the voters and show some compassion,” she said.

Despite broad popular support, the Senate has never let the bill, which is sponsored by Independent Democratic Conference member Senator Diane Savino, come to the floor for a vote. Long Island Senators, including Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Health Chair Kemp Hannon, have the power to bring the bill to the senate floor for a vote.

Vivien Foldes, a Long Island resident said, “I have survived cancer, and I live with multiple sclerosis.  I know medical marijuana can help both conditions.  I came out today to urge the New York Senate to show compassion for me and the thousands of other people in New York who could benefit from medical marijuana,” she said.

Given the broad support of patients, caregivers, health providers and the general public, a growing number of New Yorkers are calling for an immediate vote on the bill.

“As someone living with the painful condition of fibromyalgia, I want to see this bill come up for a vote in the Senate.  This is sensible and compassionate legislation that could help ease the pain of thousands of New Yorkers living with serious illnesses,” said Long Island resident, Donna Schwier. “I hope the senate will act before the end of the session next week; it’s not fair to make sick New Yorkers wait another year.”

Eighteen states and the District Columbia have passed laws creating legal access to medical marijuana for seriously ill patients, and physicians in every state bordering New York – except Pennsylvania – have the ability to recommend this effective and safe treatment for their patients.

Dr. Robert Fuentes, MD, who lives and works on Long Island and has been an internist for more than 30 years said: “The evidence supporting the efficacy of medical marijuana for certain conditions has been firmly established. As a doctor, I want what is best for my patients, and in some case, that may mean recommending the use of cannabis. My hope is that Senate will do what’s best for seriously ill New Yorkers and bring this bill for a vote.”

A significant body of scientific evidence has established the efficacy of medical cannabis for conditions such as multiple sclerosis, pain and muscle spasms and to stimulate appetite and weight gain in patients with wasting syndromes.

The bill has the support of NY Physicians for Compassionate Care, a group of more than 600 New York doctors who support the use of medical marijuana for seriously ill patients under the supervision of a healthcare provider. The bill also enjoys wide support from other healthcare 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 bill would create a tightly regulated system overseen by the New York State Department Health (DOH).  Only patients with a serious, debilitating or life-threatening illness are eligible, and all patients must be certified by their own healthcare practitioner as someone who could benefit from the therapeutic or palliative properties of medical marijuana.  Certified patients then register with DOH to receive a card that allows then legally purchase small amounts of medical marijuana from facilities licensed and regulated by the State.

“We can’t allow the suffering of our sickest citizens to continue” said Julie Netherland, spokesperson for Compassionate Care New York. “Doctors want this option for their patients, patients need relief, and four out of every five New Yorkers support the measure. It’s time for the Senate to show a little compassion and common sense and pass this bill now.”

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

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