New York: Medical Marijuana Will Ease Suffering, Craig Burridge, 2010

By Craig M. Burridge, Times Union

There is a truth that must be heard! Albany, N.Y. -- The Pharmacists Society of the State of New York has become the latest professional health organization to endorse the medical marijuana bill under consideration in Albany.

As medical professionals who believe in palliative care, responsible oversight, and -- most important -- relieving the suffering of ill patients whenever possible, we strongly support this legislation.

It will establish a controlled and orderly system, based on established medical practice, for providing seriously ill patients with access to a medicine that has been demonstrated to relieve intractable pain and suffering.

Since 1996, 14 other states and Washington, D.C., have passed laws to allow doctors to recommend marijuana to qualified patients suffering from ailments such as AIDS, cancer and multiple sclerosis. New York's bill is designed to include the best practices from those states, while at the same time learning from their mistakes.

Compared to other state laws, New York's bill would create a much stricter patient eligibility criteria, and more tightly regulate where the drug can be purchased.

A primary reason why pharmacists support this bill is the active oversight role it grants to the Department of Health. Patients would not be able to grow their own medicine, but rather gain access through a network of licensed pharmacies and nonprofit dispensaries approved and regulated by the Department of Health.

Craig M. Burridge is executive director of The Pharmacists Society of the State of New York.