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Medical Marijuana Passes In New York


new york medical marijuanaBy Phillip Smith

The New York legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (R) reached a last-minute compromise on medical marijuana this week, and yesterday, the state Senate and Assembly approved the compromise bill, Program Bill 57. Gov. Cuomo says he will sign the bill into law, making New York the 23rd medical marijuana state.

The bill is more limited than many patients and advocates would have preferred. It forbids smoking medical marijuana, although patients may vaporize or consume it in edibles. It also forbids using the raw plant. And it limits access to those with specified qualifying conditions, including cancer, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy.

In all, patients with ten specific diseases or conditions will qualify for medical marijuana. The state will be able to add other conditions, and, under the bill, it must determine within 18 months whether to add Alzheimer’s, PTSD, muscular dystrophy and dystonia, and rheumatoid arthritis.

The bill also places restrictions on healthcare providers, such as requiring that all recommendations for medical marijuana be made by physicians (excluding nurse practitioners or physician assistants who can prescribe many other medications) and mandating that participating physicians take a training course, an extremely uncommon requirement in US medicine.

Cuomo, who has never been a big fan of medical marijuana, through a spanner in the works late last week, demanding a number of changes be made to win his support. This came after the Assembly had already passed the Compassionate Use Act and the GOP-dominated Senate had signaled it would allow a vote.

The sponsors of the Compassionate Use Act, Assemblymen Dick Gottfried (D-Manhattan) and Senator Diane Savino (D-Staten Island) worked over the weekend and through this week to craft a compromise that addressed the governor’s concerns, and now, New York has a medical marijuana bill, albeit more restrictive than originally envisioned.

For patients and advocates it was a bittersweet victory.

“Today, the Senate passed a medical marijuana bill that will help some patients in New York, and that is good news,” said Susan Rusinko of Auburn, who has multiple sclerosis. “But this bill they passed is far from perfect. With any medication, the decision about the best mode of administration, including smoking for some patients, should be left up to healthcare providers and their patients, and this bill does not do that. We fought hard to get this far, and we’ll keep fighting to make sure that New York’s medical marijuana program becomes the best in the country.”

“I’m pleased that the New York Senate stood with patients and on the side of compassion when they passed the medical marijuana bill today,” said Holly Anderson, executive director of the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester. “This was a long, hard fight, and we are elated that cancer patients and others will have one more tool to help alleviate disease symptoms and side effects of treatments. But this bill has flaws, including the exclusion of smoking, which may be the cheapest and most effective way for many patients to use medical cannabis.  We call on the Commissioner of Health to quickly implement a program that is accessible to all patients, regardless of their income.”

“Today the Senate passed a medical marijuana bill that will help some, but not all, seriously ill New Yorkers who could benefit from medical cannabis,” said Kate Hintz of North Salem, whose daughter, Morgan, has Dravet’s Syndrome, a serious seizure disorder.  “As a parent of child with a seizure disorder, I’m glad that my family will be able to access medicine that can help my daughter.  But I must remind these lawmakers that they are not doctors.  The decision if and how to treat a condition with medical marijuana should be left up to the patient and the doctor, not our government. We will keep fighting for the regulated, flexible program that all New Yorkers deserve.”

“This is a huge step for patients in New York who will benefit from this legislation, and without question, today would not be possible but for the dedicated and sustained organizing work by patients, families, and advocates,” said Gabriel Sayegh, New York State director for the Drug Policy Alliance.

“And we are especially appreciative of the leadership shown by Assemblyman Gottfried and Senator Savino,” he continued. “This bill is far from perfect. Many of the limitations in this bill – like the restrictions on conditions and physician-patient relationships- are unnecessary and not supported by the science. And we know that overly restrictive medical marijuana programs leave patients behind. But if implemented quickly and effectively, this program will help thousands of sick and suffering New Yorkers, who need help now.”

“Passage of this measure comes as a relief to thousands of seriously ill New Yorkers and their families. Medical marijuana can be an effective treatment option for a variety of debilitating conditions. For some patients, it is their only option,” said Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project.

“While the bill’s passage is a significant step forward, it leaves behind thousands of patients. We hope the governor’s staff promptly implements the measure and that the health department will approve additional qualifying conditions,” O’Keefe added. “Voters overwhelmingly agree that seriously ill people should have legal access to medical marijuana.”

Both the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Policy Project have worked along with state and local organizations for more than a decade to pass a medical marijuana bill in New York.

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Johnny Green


  1. The other catch 22 in that situation is “Charlotte’s Web” is a PROPRIETARY strain, developed by those WEASEL Stanley brothers in Colorado. You HONESTLY think they’d allow there developed genetics to EVER be grown by the Govt? That would be cutting their noses off to spite their faces! It’s cost them MILLIONS if so. Since they won’t release the genetics of the strain, THEY’RE the ONLY place one can get it and that would be transporting marijuana over State lines. Another unworkable Bill!

    Like I said, if I was the sponsor of the N.Y. Bill, I’d NEVER have let them butcher it up like that. He’s NOT gonna sit with that position for too much longer. Public opinion would push him into giving in on certain issues. Public opinion is changing rapidly. They could’ve CORNERED him into accepting our terms, I’d they’d just held out a little longer. It only took ONE session to gain enough support for t the Bill in the Senate the way it was written. Another session and they MAY just have achieved what they wanted. Public opinion is what got all the GOP Senators on their side in THIS session.

    To me it’s principle… WHY even have one if the people who need it can’t get it. Last time I looked, smoking ANYTHING in this country is STILL legal! What next? Outlaw Straw or Hay cuz some hayseed smoked Straw, and had a hallucination? The tide it is a changing and these CBD ONLY bills DON’T and WON’T work. All that does is put it BACK in the hands of Big PHARMA, and that’s BULLSHIT! It’s a Fuckin weed that’ll grow in my backyard. WHY do I have to pay tens of thousands of $$ to them when it honestly grows WILD in many places in this country?

  2. That’s the catch-22, in my opinion! The governor forbids smoking, but allows edibles and vaporization? Precisely *what* are patients going to have access to, if not the raw plant? From where do the edibles come if the patients aren’t preparing them? What *exactly* would patients supposedly be vaporizing if not the raw plant? Oils and concentrates? I’ve seen videos of oils and concentrates BEING SMOKED — are they going to forbid anything/everything that could potentially be combusted???

    The “no smoking” clause could be used to undermine the implementation of anything even slightly resembling a functional, beneficial medical cannabis program. Patients who are suffering NOW and need access YESTERDAY could end up waiting months or years while they fix this horrid mistake.

    They passed a hamstrung “program” in Maryland years back, and sure enough, everyone lined up like circus seals to clap for its passage until they realized it wasn’t actually going to *DO* anything. NJ was (and is) praised as a functional medical cannabis state, although only about 170 out of every 1000 patients who are registered with the program (and paid their $200) have any access because of the way the program is being sabotaged.

    Here in Georgia, I threw my support behind a bill that would have ONLY granted access to one, specific extract derived from a single strain of cannabis (Charlotte’s Web) on the off-chance it would have helped just a precious few children. I did so because I figured “it’s better than nothing,” and it might help SOMEONE. It became known as the first of many “CBD only” bills we’ve seen, recently. But because of the so-called “compromises” made to appease the social conservatives at every step of the way, it was determined that the bill (even had it passed) wouldn’t have been able to help ANYONE (not even those children) because they would not allow any in-state cultivation and processing, saying instead they’d only trust cannabis supplied by the federal government. The one time Republicans say they’ll only trust the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT…

    The fact is, everything cannabis opponents label a “compromise” is simply a veiled attempt to undermine viable solutions. Cuomo’s “compromise” is going to be used like a club to beat this “medical cannabis” program into submission, just like in New Jersey. Every “compromise” made to Georgia’s CBD bill was just another nail in tiny, child-sized coffins. And the whole thing sickens me.

  3. Just because the Bill has the words Medical Marijuana in it’s title, Doesn’t a Medical Marijuana law MAKE! This Bill is ABSURD and if I were the sponsors, I’d have PULLED it. WHY even have one if 70% of the people who would need access to the PLANT, well never get it? This is a way to FAKE like you’ve done something and maintain the status quo. He can still keep arresting the poor, because all they’ll be able to afford is the PLANT MATERIAL, that you can ONLY get on the Black Market. Therefore the POOR who need access to this product will STILL be subject to arrest. I don’t understand the “no smoking” of the plant either. Although vaporizing is my favorite delivery method, WHERE does the Government get off, telling me STILL, what I can put into my own body and what I can’t? That’s not a given power to them, we’ve ALLOWED them to ASSUME that power for some reason. But it’s time it STOPS!

  4. Johnny Appleseed on

    Do any other states restrict medical marijuana like this? And it seems to me that despite being a very liberal state, NY will never really be open to marijuana in the way that some west coast states are open to it.

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