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Release: Medical Marijuana Bill Passes Assembly Health Committe

The medical marijuana bill, the Compassionate Care Act (A.6357-A), passed the Assembly Health Committee today with a bipartisan vote of 20-4.  “The Compassionate Care Act is needed,” said Assembly Health Chair Richard N. Gottfried, sponsor of the bill, “even with Governor Cuomo’s Executive action on medical marijuana.”

In his State of the State message, Governor Cuomo endorsed the medical value of cannabis when he said: “New York has the opportunity to alleviate the pain and suffering of residents with cancer and other severe illnesses.  Medical research shows that the use of marijuana may alleviate the symptoms associated with serious debilitating or life threatening illnesses…It is time for New York to take action.”

However, Gottfried stressed, the 1980 Olivieri law the Governor is using has serious limitations and problems.  Many patients who could benefit from medical marijuana will not be helped under the 1980 law, such as children with severe epilepsy.  Relying on ordinary marijuana seized by the police or grown on the federal government’s farm, as the 1980 law does, raises serious concerns, beyond the lack of specially tailored strains.  Many patients (especially children) require other forms of cannabis.  “Medical science is well beyond where we were in 1980,” Gottfried said, “with tightly regulated cannabis producers in other states producing strains with different strengths and compositions to reflect patient conditions and needs.”

 “The Legislature needs to enact legislation this session that is more comprehensive,” Gottfried added.  “With the advantage of 20 states and the District of Columbia having gone before us, the Compassionate Care Act incorporates lessons learned and best practices from those states.”  The bill’s key features include:

  • Setting up a tightly regulated and controlled system for producing medical marijuana;
  • Practitioners licensed to prescribe controlled substances would certify patient need;
  • Certified patients would register with the Health Department;
  • Tightly regulated and controlled dispensaries would dispense medical marijuana;
  • The certification process and dispensing of medical marijuana would be included in the I-STOP prescription monitoring system for controlled substances; and
  • Producers and dispensers would be required to comply with detailed “seed to sale” security controls and regulations