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Daily News: Medical Marijuana Bill Clears NYS Senate Health Committee

By Ken Lovett, 5/20/14

Supporters of legalizing medical marijuana in New York were flying high after the measure cleared the Senate Health Committee for the first time Wednesday afternoon.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island), was reported out of committee by a 9-8 vote.

It now goes to the Senate Finance Committee. If it passes there, it could be brought to the floor for a full vote of the Senate before the legislative session ends next month.

The legislation would authorize the use of medical pot to treat specific “serious, debilitating, life-threatening” chronic llnesses. Savino recently amended the bill to allow its use for rheumatoid arthritis. But at the urging of the state’s ophthalmologists, it would not cover glaucoma.

Savino has said she has at least 39 votes for the measure in the chamber. Twenty one states have already legalized medical marijuana.

Supporters of the bill filled the hearing room for the vote and broke out into loud applause when it was announced it was reported out of committee.

Savino tried to alleviate fears that New York’s program could mirror the much maligned California program that critics say made it too easy to obtain pot.

Savino said the bill, known as the compassionate care act, “would create would create tightest most regulated program in the nation.”

The bill, she said, lists 20 different diseases for which medical marijuana can be prescribed. It would also create an advisory panel to consider expanding or reducing the list in the future based on science and doctor recommendations.

The legislation would also require that every pot plant have a bar code that Savino said would make “impossible to divert this into the black market.”

And it would restrict to 20 the number of manufacturers that would be licensed to grow the pot.

A bill introduced by Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Suffolk County) would not allow medical marijuana to be smoked. But Savino said that could seriously hamper some patients. Instead, her bill would prohibit the smoking of medical pot by anyone under 21.

Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn) , a former city cop, voted against the measure. Golden said he believes eventually medical marijuana will be legalized in New York and nationally, but believes the federal government should lead the way and enact regulations that all states must follow.

“I do believe at some point there will be legalization of medical marijuana in New York and across the nation,” he said. “I don’t believe it’s now or should be now.”

Of the eight Health Committee members who voted against the bill, all were Republicans.

One GOPer, Sen. William Larkin, of Orange County, voted to report the bill out of committee. All eight Democrats on the committee also voted for it.

“This bill is really about a simple concept, which is to alleviate suffering,” said Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan). “I can’t think of a more important or noble pursuit on the part of this committee, the state Senate or the Legislature.”

Added Sen. Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx): “I believe it is thoughtful, it is necessary and ultimately, sometimes the states have to lead when the federal government is lagging behind.”

Assembly Health Committee Chairman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) has has sponsored medical pot legislation in his chamber, called the Senate committee vote “a great achievement for the patients and families who’ve been working so hard for the medical marijuana bill, and for Senator Diane Savino.”

“Tens of thousands of patients with serious debilitating and life-threatening conditions will lead better and longer lives with less suffering if this legislation becomes law.”

Gov. Cuomo has proposed a more restrictive program that does not need legislative approval. He has not said whether he would sign the Savino bill should it pass both houses.


Meg Sanders, CEO of GAIA Plant Based Medicine, a Colorado business made up of caregivers who provide services and products, released the following statement:

“Today, there are thousands of seriously ill New Yorkers who should be more optimistic than they were yesterday. That optimism is based on the fact the Compassionate Care Act (CCA) was reported out of the New York State Senate Health Committee. This historic vote represents the most significant step New York’s medical marijuana efforts have ever seen. While there is still a lot of work ahead of us, I want to thank the men and women on the Committee who voted for compassion today.

“Senator Savino’s bill strikes the right balance between getting patients the relief they need and taking strong and sensible steps to prevent unauthorized access and illegal sales. The CCA will make New York’s medical marijuana system the best in the nation. It will provide safe, access only for people who need it.

“On behalf of GAIA, I’d like to thank Senator Savino for her tireless efforts, as well as Senator Larkin.  Without their commitment to giving New Yorkers the same health care options as residents of 22 other states, CCA would still be languishing in the legislative process.

“We look forward to working with patients, their families, health care professionals, organized labor and others to secure passage of CCA.”

GAIA is a Colorado business made up of caregivers to provide services and products in Colorado. GAIA currently provides services for Cannabis counseling/sales, Tinctures and edibles, nutraceuticals, and wellness products. GAIA also advocates for patients’ rights and “safe access” to medical marijuana in several other states across the county. Gaia also operates an industrial cultivation facility, three medical dispensaries and consults for governments and businesses throughout the country.