Medical Marijuana Clears Assembly Health Committee

Bill now heads to Assembly Codes Committee for review
May 22, 2012

The bill to let patients suffering from serious debilitating or life-threatening conditions be treated with marijuana under medical supervision was favorably reported from the Assembly Committee on Health on Tuesday, May 15 with a majority of Minority Conference members voting in favor of the bill. Seventeen states have laws that allow medical use of marijuana, and a bill in Connecticut is expected to become law.

The bill, A.7347-A/S.7283, sponsored in the Assembly by Health Committee chair Richard N. Gottfried and in the Senate by Diane Savino, would enact "one of the most restrictive medical marijuana laws in the country," Gottfried said.

"If the patient and physician agree that the patientís serious debilitating or life-threatening condition should be treated with medical marijuana, the government should not stand in the way," said Gottfried. "It is cruel to deny treatment to patients who are suffering or to turn them into criminals."

The bill requires a patient to have a licensed health care professional who is authorized to prescribe controlled substances certify the patientís need for marijuana for treatment of a serious debilitating or life-threatening condition. The patient then registers with the Department of Health. The marijuana would be purchased from a specially registered and regulated hospital or pharmacy. If there is no registered dispenser within 20 miles of the patientís home, a limited quantity of home production would be allowed.

THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Drug Enforcement Agency in synthetic pill form since 1986. THC in pill form commonly delivers a larger dose than the patient needs or can tolerate. There is substantial medical judgment that consuming marijuana naturally makes it easier to limit the dosage and symptoms are easier to manage. "Whether marijuana is consumed in synthetic pill form or natural form should not be a law enforcement issue," said Gottfried.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has stated that the federal government will not interfere with people who are complying with state medical marijuana laws.

Medical marijuana legislation is supported by a broad array of health and other organizations, including:

  • Medical Society of the State of New York
  • New York State Nurses Association
  • Hospice and Palliative Care Association of New York State
  • Pharmacists Society of the State of New York
  • Statewide Senior Action Council
  • Gay Menís Health Crisis
  • New York AIDS Coalition
  • New York State AIDS Institute Advisory Council
  • Oncology Nursing Association (New York State chapter)
  • Association of the Bar of the City of New York
  • American Academy of HIV Medicine
  • AFSCME District Council 37
  • Housing Works
  • Latino Commission on AIDS
  • Family Services Network of New York Inc.
  • Drug Policy Alliance
  • Compassion & Choices of New York
  • Gray Panthers, NYC Network

Nationally, legalizing the medical use of marijuana is supported by the American Public Health Association, the American Bar Association, and the Lymphoma Foundation of America, among others. The medical use of marijuana is recognized by the American Medical Association and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science.