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Medical Marijuana legalization passes Assembly, sent to Senate

Patients suffering from severe debilitating or life-threatening conditions could be treated with marijuana under medical supervision under a bill passed by the New York State Assembly today.  The bill, sponsored by Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried and Senator Diane J. Savino, passed by a strong bi-partisan vote of 95-38.

“From Delaware to Maine, almost every state allows medical use of marijuana,” said Assembly Member Gottfried, noting that 18 states and the District of Columbia currently have medical marijuana laws.  “If the patient and physician agree that a severe debilitating or life-threatening condition should be treated with medical marijuana, the government should not stand in the way.  It is cruel to deny treatment to patients who are suffering or turn them into criminals.”

The bill would allow medical use of marijuana under a doctor’s supervision for patients with cancer or other severe debilitating or life-threatening conditions.  It sets up a tightly regulated and controlled medical marijuana system.  Practitioners licensed to prescribe controlled substances could certify patient need, and certified patients would register with the Health Department.  Both the certification process and dispensing of medical marijuana would be included in the I-STOP prescription monitoring system for controlled substances enacted in 2012.

The Health Department would license and regulate “registered organizations” to produce and dispense medical marijuana for certified patients.  They could be hospitals, pharmacies, or other for-profit businesses, or not-for-profit corporations and would be required to comply with detailed “seed to sale” security controls and regulations.  A clinical advisory committee made up predominately of health care professionals would advise the Health Commissioner on clinical matters.

“This bill is much more restrictive than the New York laws regulating highly dangerous drugs like morphine, Oxycontin, or Valium,” said Gottfried.

The bill would impose an excise tax on manufacturing and dispensing medical marijuana.  Half the revenue would be shared with the locality where it is manufactured or dispensed.

“This is sensible, strict, and humane legislation.  The fact that this is not the law in New York is political correctness run amok, at the expense of the suffering of thousands of our fellow New Yorkers,” Gottfried added.

A 2012 Siena poll found that a strong majority of New Yorkers support legalization of medical marijuana, 61%-33%, including 69%-27% among independent voters. [Siena College Research Institute, June 3-6, 2012.  Crosstabs online at]

A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, May 30, 2013, found that 76% of physicians would prescribe medical marijuana to a patient with metastatic breast cancer – including physicians in jurisdictions in which it is currently illegal. [Jonathan Adler, M.D., and James Colbert, M.D., “Medicinal Use of Marijuana – Polling Results,” The New England Journal of Medicine, May 30, 2013.]

For the full text of the bill, go to and enter A6357 or S4406

May Assembly Health Committee Update

The Assembly Committee on Health favorably reported 18 bills in May, including legislation expanding farmworker protections against pesticides; requiring screening of newborns for congenital heart defects; offering vision care in school-based health centers; and increasing the purchasing age for tobacco from 18 to 19.  For more information on a particular bill, please contact the sponsor listed after the description.  For the text of a bill, supporting memorandum, and information on its status, go to:

Tuesday, May 7

Displaying Human Remains – Prohibits the commercial display of human remains, with limited exceptions.  (A287A, Kavanagh)

Farm Worker Pesticide Protection – Expands worker protection standards and guidelines for protection from pesticides on farms.  (A5028, Englebright)

Optometrist Clinical Laboratory Testing – Allows optometrists, like other practitioners, to perform certain clinical laboratory tests without a lab license.  (A6724, Gottfried)

Wednesday, May 22

Children’s Camp Oversight – Requires single-purpose children’s day camps to obtain permits and liability insurance.  Under existing law, only camps that have two or more activities are subject to Department of Health regulation.  (A2193B, Paulin)

Newborn Heart Defect Screening –  Adds pulse oximetry screenings for critical congenital heart defects to the list of required hospital tests for newborns, as recommended by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics.  (A2316B, Gunther)

Medicaid Managed Care Dental Rate-Setting – Authorizes the Commissioner of Health to set reimbursement rates for dental services covered under the Medicaid Managed Care program.  (A2930, Wright)

Save Our Sight Program – Establishes the Save Our Sight Program and Fund to educate children on proper vision care.  (A4057, Wright)
Tobacco Purchasing Age – Increases the purchasing age for tobacco products from 18 years of age to 19.  (A6393, Galef)

Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Certification Extender – Eight counties and the New York City Fire Department currently operate a demonstration program in which EMTs can be re-certified every 5 years instead of every 3. The program is scheduled to sunset in 2013 and this bill extends it by 5 years.  (A7170, Sweeney)

Vision Care in School-Based Health Centers – Allows vision services offered in school health clinics under Medicaid to be covered outside Medicaid managed care plans, in a program where a charitable foundation provides free frames and lenses, and provides for setting Medicaid payment rates.  (A7342, Gottfried)
Wednesday, May 29
Credentialing Central Service Technicians – Sets guidelines for certifying central service technicians for hospital and ambulatory surgical center facilities.  (A878, Bronson)

Qualifications for Medical Examiners and Coroners – Requires the Commissioner of Health to develop and administer training programs, minimum qualifications, and procedures and standards for coroners and medical examiners.  These do not exist now.  (A2692, Gottfried)

Pesticide Prevention at Children’s Camps – Limits the use of pesticides at children’s overnight or summer day camps to designated safe categories, modeled on the standards for schools.  (A4841A, Paulin)

Urgent Care Clinic Study – Requires the Department of Health to undertake a one-year study of the distribution and quality of urgent care clinics.  (A6838, Gottfried)

Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC) Reform – Enhances patient safety by making several updates to professional misconduct procedures and requirements, including participation in remediation, license reinstatement, and the use of testimonials in advertising under certain conditions.  (A7102, Gottfried, Department of Health departmental bill)

Electronic Death Registry – Establishes a statewide electronic system for collecting, recording, and authenticating death records.  (A7500, Steck)

Foster Home Care Demonstration Program Extender – Extends for another 4 years the program in which foster family care providers serve individuals eligible for home health care services but who lack a home or adequate family support to live in the community, including 2 demonstration programs. (A7504, Millman)

Palliative Care Definition – Adds a definition of “palliative care” to the section of Public Health Law governing hospice care, to conform to other statutory definitions of palliative care.  (A7505, Gottfried)

April Assembly Health Committee Update

The Assembly Committee on Health favorably reported 39 bills at meetings in April, including legislation to create a universal health coverage “single payer” plan for New York State, to allow use of marijuana under medical supervision, a ban on artificial trans fats modeled on the NYC law, expanding access to emergency contraception, Adoptee Right to Know, Adult Home Resident Abuse Reporting   and requiring disclosure of medical errors.  For more information on a particular bill, please contact the sponsor listed after the description.  For the text of a bill, supporting memorandum, and information on its status, go to:

Tuesday, April 16

Preventing Illegal Cigarette Distribution – Prevents illegal cigarette sales by strengthening the state’s cigarette shipment law and enacting civil penalties for offenders.  (A365, Dinowitz, passed Assembly on 4/29/13)

Obstetrician Risk Management Continuing Education – Grants a medical malpractice premium reduction to obstetricians, other physicians who do deliveries, and midwives who take a continuing education course on risk management and birthing options for patients.  (A414A, Paulin)

Happy Year of the Snake!

YearofSnake-SquareToday, February 10, 2013, is the Chinese New Year. Some may know of Dick’s abilities as a chinese calligrapher. Here is his interpretation of “Happy New Year”.