Medical Marijuana Bill Passes Assembly -- But Don't Get Your Hopes Up, New York
A bill that would legalize medical marijuana in New York passed in the Assembly yesterday, but don't go making up any ailments that qualify you for a weed prescription just yet; Governor Buzz Kill ain't gonna sign it -- even if it does find its way to his desk.
The bill would legalize prescription weed for people suffering from "serious debilitating or life-threatening conditions." If the bill becomes law, New York -- the state Governor Andrew Cuomo says should be the "progressive capitol of the nation" -- would become the 17th state to legalize marijuana for medical use.
"If the patient and physician agree that the patient's serious debilitating or life-threatening condition should be treated with medical marijuana, the government should not stand in the way," Assemblyman Richard Gottfried -- the chairman of the Assembly's Health Committee, who introduced the bill (for the 17th time) -- says. "It is cruel to deny treatment to patients who are suffering or to turn them into criminals."
Under the proposed law, a licensed health care professional who is authorized to prescribe controlled substances would "certify the patient's need for marijuana for treatment of a serious debilitating or life-threatening condition." The certified "patient" would then registers with the Department of Health, and the weed would be purchased from a specially registered and regulated hospital or pharmacy.
According to Gottfried, New York's medical marijuana law "would be one of the most restrictive medical marijuana laws in the country." He says "it is modeled on the law we apply to highly dangerous and addictive drugs like morphine or oxycodone, but even tighter." In other words, New York wouldn't become California -- the poster state for flawed medical marijuana policy.
"To watch someone you love fight to live through the agony of the pain without any relief is too hard to bear. Medical marijuana can help ease this suffering," Geri Barish -- a Nassau County cancer survivor and mother whose son used medical marijuana before he succumbed to cancer -- says. "Knowing that a doctor could provide safe and legal access to medical marijuana in a controlled environment will give patients with severe illnesses in New York State hope."
The bill has the support of more than 50 state legislators, and the vast majority of New Yorkers are OK with medical marijuana (80-percent of New Yorkers support medical marijuana, according to a Zogby poll)
"This is sensible, strict, and humane legislation. The fact that Arizona, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and New Jersey and over a dozen other states allow this while it's still illegal in New York is political correctness run amok, at the expense of the suffering of thousands of New Yorkers," Gottfried added.
As we mentioned, even if the bill clears the state Senate, Cuomo won't sign it -- despite his advocating for the decriminalization of "public view" marijuana possession (more on that here).
Cuomo said earlier this year that he's "studying" the pros and cons of medical marijuana, but that there isn't enough time this year for the Legislature to fine-tune the bill into something he'd consider signing (we suspect Cuomo's stance on medical weed has something to do with his presidential ambitions. More on that here).
"There are tremendous risks," the governor told reporters in April. "I think the risks outweigh the benefits at this point."
We asked the governor's office what "risks" he was referring to. We were given no answer. More on that here.
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