New York: Governor, Legislature Announce Medical Marijuana Program; No Smoking Allowed
Senate, Assembly and Governor Announce Medical Marijuana Deal
Thousands Will Still Benefit, Although Bill Excludes Smoked Marijuana
The New York Assembly, Senate and Governor Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday announced a deal to move forward on a limited medical marijuana program, which makes New York the 23rd state to adopt such a program. The new law will provide relief to thousands of New Yorkers suffering from debilitating illnesses such as cancer, AIDS, glaucoma and multiple sclerosis, as well as children struggling with seizure disorders.
Although the final bill language has not yet been released, advocates were pleased to hear that there had been a breakthrough in Albany. As recently as yesterday, it was unclear that an agreement could be reached between the Governor and legislative leaders on behalf of thousands of patients and their caregivers who have demanded passage of the Compassionate Care Act, which recently passed the Assembly.
Information currently available about the bill suggests that it has some serious limitations and restrictions. For example, the bill would prohibit smoking, restrict any access to the raw plant form of marijuana. The number of producers and dispensaries is also reportedly extremely limited, raising questions about whether the system will be able to meet the needs of patients in New York.
“New York has finally done something significant for thousands of patients who are suffering and need relief now," said gabriel sayegh of the Drug Policy Alliance. "They will benefit from this compromise.
“That said, this is not the bill we wanted," sayegh said. "We are disappointed to learn that eligible conditions have been limited, and despite strong medical evidence about the benefits of smoked and raw cannabis, leaders decided to exclude this as an option for doctors and patients in New York.
"We strongly believe that the decision about the mode of administration for any medication should be left up to doctor and their patients," sayegh said. "The cost of purchasing a vaporizer and the extract products will likely leave many low-income patients behind, and there is little research on the long-term health effects of using extracts.
"We know that overly restrictive programs, like New Jersey’s, can create enormous obstacles for suffering patients," sayegh said. "We hope that the proposal being put forth today is both well regulated and flexible enough to ensure that patients who need medication get it – and get it in a timely fashion. We look forward to seeing the details and to working ensure this is implemented as quickly as possible.
“Just today, as members of our coalition discussed this deal, we watched one of our young members experience a terrible seizure," sayegh said. "It is for her and for all the others who might find immediate relief from their suffering that we look forward to seeing the details of proposal and moving forward to building a viable, workable medical marijuana patient access system in New York. The agreement announced isn’t everything patients hoped for or need, but it’s a start, and patients have waited far too long for relief.”