Medical Marijuana Plan Passes Assembly

"It's Cruel to Deny Treatment to Patients Who are Suffering" Says Gottfried

 Medical Marijuana

The following e-mail was sent to us by Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried. We applaud the work he does, not only on this issue, but so many other issues that make New York a better place.

Patients suffering from serious debilitating or life-threatening conditions could be treated with medical marijuana under medical supervision under a bill overwhelmingly passed by the Assembly on Wednesday, June 13. The bill has substantial support among the medical community, patient groups, and religious organizations. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have laws that allow medical use of marijuana, with Connecticut being the most recent to sign it into law on June 1.

"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," said Gottfried. "It is cruel to deny treatment to patients who are suffering or to turn them into criminals."

The plan approved by the Assembly "would be one of the most restrictive medical marijuana laws in the country," Gottfried said. "It is modeled on the law we apply to highly dangerous and addictive drugs like morphine or oxycodone, but even tighter."

"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," said Geri Barish, a Nassau County cancer survivor and mother whose son used medical marijuana before he succumbed to cancer. "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."

New York's bill, A7347-B/S7283-A, introduced by Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried and Senate Children and Families Committee Chair Diane J. Savino, has the bi-partisan support of over 50 other legislators. "This is long overdue," said Gottfried, noting that this is the 16th year he has introduced a medical marijuana bill in the Assembly.

Under the bill, 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 then registers with the Department of Health. The marijuana would be purchased from a specially registered and regulated hospital or pharmacy.

"As an attorney and a person actively involved with civic affairs, I work very hard to uphold the law," said Jamin Sewel, a Bronx resident who was diagnosed with MS ten years ago. "I would like to thank the Assembly for recognizing the thousands of New Yorkers like myself who are living with serious and debilitating conditions for which medicinal marijuana can provide relief."

THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, has been approved by the Federal Food and Drug Administration and Drug Enforcement Agency in synthetic pill form since 1986. THC in pill form, which is legal in New York, 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 control the dosage and symptoms are easier to manage. The bill would allow use of the natural form of marijuana.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has stated that the federal government will not interfere in states with medical marijuana laws unless both state and federal laws were broken.

"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.

Under appropriate professional care like other drugs, marijuana has important therapeutic use for many seriously ill patients. In an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2004, the Lymphoma Foundation of America, the HIV Medicine Association, and the American Medical Students Association said: "For certain persons, the medical use of marijuana can literally mean the difference between life and death."

A Siena poll released in May of this year, found a "strong majority" of New Yorkers support the legalization of the use of medical marijuana 57%-33%. When polled two years ago, the proposal was supported 50%-41%.

Medical marijuana legislation has the support of 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 Men's 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
AmericanAcademy 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
National Lawyers Guild, NYC Chapter 

Nationally, allowing 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.

For the full text of the bill, go to and type in bill number A7347.