Written by Christina Sarich, Natural Society.
We are drawing ever closer to all 50 states passing either medical or recreational marijuana laws. New York is about to become the 23rd in our nation to legalize medical marijuana with the passage of the Compassionate Care Act (A. 6357-B/Gottfried) passed with a bipartisan vote of 91-34. Next up is a senate vote to pass this bill after the fifth time a marijuana bill has been presented to the Assembly.
Once the bill passes through the senate, thousands of New Yorkers will be able to enjoy the relief from various conditions ranging from cancer to epilepsy, to MS, thanks to the allowance of the use of medical marijuana. A professional health care provider will have to issue a prescription for medical marijuana, but numerous ailments are included for coverage by medical marijuana in the bill. Hundreds of patients, caregivers, and supporters of medical marijuana watched in the gallery as the Assembly debated the latest bill and overwhelmingly decided to vote it through.
“Once again the Assembly has shown that it understands the needs of seriously ill patients in New York,” said Donna Romano of Syracuse. “As someone who lives with MS and seizures, I know medical marijuana can help alleviate my suffering and that of thousands of other New Yorkers. I hope the Senate will finally do the right thing and pass the Compassionate Care Act now,” Romano said.
The Senate Health Committee has passed the measure S. 4406-B (Savino), but the bill now awaits a vote in the Senate Finance Committee. Last week, Finance Committee Chair John DeFrancisco told the press he would allow a vote on the Compassionate Care Act, but only if Senate Leadership agrees to it. Previously, the bill has been held up under budgeting disagreements, but perhaps after seeing the success of medical marijuana in Colorado, this has become a moot point.
“I applaud the leadership of the Assembly in passing the Compassionate Care Act for the fifth time,” said Kate Hintz of North Salem whose daughter Morgan suffers from a severe and life-threatening seizure disorder. “But my family can’t keep waiting; every day we wait is another day of seizures that could take our daughter’s life.
“It’s time for the Senate to follow the Assembly’s lead and pass the bill before more seriously ill New Yorkers needlessly suffer or die,” Hintz said.
New York is now surrounded by states that also have access to legal medical marijuana, the only exception being Pennsylvania. Minnesota just legalized medical marijuana recently, sort of. Currently, patients who want to use medical marijuana to treat pain or illness risk possible arrest for purchasing or using cannabis.
“By passing the Compassionate Care Act once again, the Assembly has shown that it cares about me and other New Yorkers living with serious illnesses,” said Dawn Carney of Mt .Vernon, who has been living HIV since 1992. “The Senate should show the same kind of compassion; they should bring the bill to the floor for a vote.”
The bill awaiting a Senate green-light has mass appeal. Many organizations are looking for it to pass, including: the New York State Breast Cancer Network, the New York Academy of Medicine, the Epilepsy Foundation, the New York State Nurses Association, the New York State Pharmacists Society, and the Hospice and Palliative Care Association of New York.
“What has been an enormously frustrating process over many years is made better by your actionstoday,” Anderson said. “As we move forward with your Senate colleagues, we will implore them to do everything in their power to pass this legislation. Come on, Senate! We believe in you! Let’s get it done!”
“We join advocates from across New York state in expressing our deepest gratitude to the New York State Assembly, which recognizes the critical importance of the Compassionate Care Act,” said Holly Anderson, executive director of the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester. “It has been gratifying to see your response to patients, many in desperate health situations.
If the bill passes the Senate, patients will register with the New York State Department of Health and receive a patient identification card. Under strict controls, their health care provider, via specially approved organizations, would then be able to dispense medical marijuana to patients under the supervision of the Department of Health.