Richard N. Gottfried

Patients suffering from severe debilitating or life-threatening conditions could be treated with medical marijuana under medical supervision under a bill introduced by key legislators today. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have laws that allow medical use of marijuana.
New York's bill A. 6357/ S. 4406, introduced by Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried and Senator Diane J. Savino, is co-sponsored by 68 other legislators. The bill passed the Assembly by a vote of 91-52 last year.

"If the patient and physician agree that the patient's severe 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."

"Thousands of New Yorkers have serious medical conditions that would benefit from medical use of marijuana," Senator Savino said. "Anybody who ever had a family member suffer from a debilitating disease learns very quickly the limitations of modern medicine at treating pain. Doctors and patients have documented that marijuana can offer very effective pain treatment - where other medications have failed - for many patients who suffer from cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, and other life-threatening or debilitating conditions."

The bill would allow medical use of marijuana under a doctor's supervision, for patients with cancer and other severe debilitating or life-threatening conditions. The bill would set up a tightly regulated and controlled medical marijuana system.

A practitioner who is licensed to prescribe controlled substances could certify that a patient has a severe debilitating or life-threatening condition that can and should be treated with the medical use of marijuana. Certified patients would register with the Health Department. Certifying and dispensing medical marijuana would be included in the I-STOP prescription monitoring system for controlled substances enacted in 2012.

The Health Department would license and regulate "registered organizations" to produce and dispense medical marijuana for certified patients. They could be hospitals or for-profit businesses or not-for-profit corporations. They would be required to comply with detailed "seed to sale" security controls and regulations. A clinical advisory committee made up predominately of health care professionals would advise the Health Commissioner on clinical matters.
The bill would impose an excise tax on manufacturing and dispensing medical marijuana. Half the revenue would be shared with the locality where it is manufactured or dispensed.
"This bill is much more restrictive than the New York laws regulating highly dangerous drugs like morphine, Oxycontin, or Valium," Gottfried said.

"With this bill, we're putting forward a carefully crafted and restrictive model with great oversight by both patients' physicians and the State Department of Health," Senator Savino said. "Our bill proposes a highly regulated and controlled "seed to sale" model that will guarantee that New Yorkers suffering from debilitating conditions will have access to medical marijuana. But it also goes to great lengths to help insure that the marijuana is used only for medicinal purposes by patients truly in need."

"This is sensible, strict, and humane legislation. The fact that this is not the law in New York is political correctness run amok, at the expense of the suffering of thousands of our fellow New Yorkers," Assembly Member Gottfried added.

The medical use of marijuana is recognized by the American Medical Association and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science. In their 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 2012 Siena poll found that a strong majority of New Yorkers support legalization of medical marijuana, 61%-33%, including 69%-27% among independent voters.[1]

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

American Public Health Association

American Bar Association

New YorkState Nurses Association

Hospice and Palliative Care Association of New YorkState

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

Lymphoma Foundation of America

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

Independence Party of New York State

Gaia Plant-Based Medicine

Gray Panthers, NYC Network

For the full text of the bill, go to and enter: A6357 or S4406.