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PRESS RELEASE – Medical Marijuana Passes Assembly

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, passed by a strong bi-partisan vote of 94-36.

The bill, A.6357B, has been amended to address concerns raised in Health Committee hearings in December 2013 and in response to requests made by the Medical Society of the State of New York and the New York State Ophthalmological Society. Last week, the Senate Health Committee reported out a similar bill. “That was a huge step forward and we need to keep going to passage in both houses,” said Assembly Member Gottfried. “I think we’re now on the way to enacting a comprehensive medical marijuana law.”

One amendment to the bill provides that a practitioner may only certify medical use of marijuana if the practitioner finds that other appropriate treatments have been tried and not been effective or that clinical trials have shown comparable efficacy to currently accepted treatments. The Medical Society of the State of New York requested this change.

For many patients, delay in getting the medical marijuana production and dispensing system up and running will mean their health will be damaged and their lives jeopardized. For these patients, amendments to the bill would allow the Department of Health to approve expedited access to existing producers and dispensers in states with regulations consistent with New York’s.

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 would be required to comply with detailed “seed to sale” security controls and regulations.

“From Washington, DC, to Maine, every state allows medical use of marijuana,” said Assembly Member Gottfried, noting that 21 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, it is cruel for the government to deny them treatment or turn them into criminals.”

Every poll on the issue shows that New Yorkers overwhelmingly support legalization of medical marijuana. A recent Quinnipiac poll shows 83% support statewide, including 74% among Republicans. (Quinnipiac University, May 23, 2014,