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PRESS RELEASE: Legislature Passes Medical Marijuana Bill; Sent to Governor for Signature

The Assembly and Senate have passed legislation allowing patients suffering from severe debilitating or life-threatening conditions to be treated with marijuana under medical supervision. The bill is sponsored by Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried and Senator Diane Savino and is based largely on their Compassionate Care Act bill, with amendments in response to concerns raised by the Governor.

“This is a major victory for patients,” said Assembly Member Gottfried, who has been sponsoring medical marijuana legislation since 1997. “If the patient and physician agree that a severe debilitating or life-threatening condition should be treated with medical marijuana, it is cruel for government to stand in the way. We’ve incorporated many of the Governor’s requirements to gain his support.”

Senator Diane Savino said, “Today marks an historic victory for thousands of New Yorkers who will no longer have to suffer needlessly during their courageous medical battles. Under this bill, New Yorkers will now have the same access to life-changing treatment options that others around the country have had. Today we celebrate this victory with the countless patients, families, advocates, health care professionals and physicians who have all fought passionately for the safe and reliable use of medical marijuana as part of a comprehensive course of treatment for disease and illness.”

Provisions of the bill include:

  • Patients will have to receive a certification from a licensed physician registered with the New York State Department of Health (DoH). The patient will then be issued a registration card.
  • Eligible conditions include cancer, HIV/AIDS, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), Parkinson’s Disease, multiple sclerosis, damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathies, Huntington’s Disease, and others as added by the New York State Commissioner of Health. The Commissioner is also directed to determine within 18 months of enactment the eligibility of Alzheimer’s Disease, muscular dystrophy, dystonia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Medical marijuana may be administered in forms approved by DoH, but may not be smoked.  However, vaporizing devices (similar to refillable e-cigarettes) are permitted.
  • Organizations seeking to manufacture or distribute medical marijuana will be registered by DoH. Five registered organizations will be allowed, and each organization can operate up to 4 dispensaries for a total of 20 statewide unless the Commissioner determines that more are needed to meet public health requirements.
  • An excise tax of 7% of the dispensing price will be paid by registered organizations.  45% of the revenue will be divided between the County in which the product is manufactured and the County in which it is dispensed; 5% to the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse; and 5% to the Division of Criminal Justice Services.  The rest goes to the state treasury.

“It’s certainly not everything that I would want, but it will bring relief to thousands of suffering New Yorkers,” Gottfried added. “We will work with the Health Department to speed up implementation as much as possible and to make sure that New York has the best medical marijuana program in the country.”

Gottfried said “I am especially concerned about the very young children with a devastating, severe life-threatening form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome. A particular form of medical marijuana gives them almost complete relief. Some of these little children will die waiting for the law to be implemented.”

The bill passed both Houses with bi-partisan support. Polls have repeatedly shown overwhelming support for medical marijuana, including 83% statewide and 74% among Republicans in a recent Quinnipiac poll.