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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