In NY Sponsors Plan Hearings On Medical Marijuana Bill

NEW YORK: The debate over the legalization of medical marijuana in New York will be reopened in the upcoming session, and the Assembly is getting a head start.

This month, the Assembly Committee on Health will hold two hearings to discuss the Compassionate Care Act, which would allow those licensed to prescribe controlled substances to prescribe marijuana for medicinal use. The legislation (A.6357/S.4406) passed in the Assembly last session, but was never put up for vote in the Senate.

Public hearings will take place at the Buffalo City Hall in Buffalo on Dec. 5 and the Nassau County Legislative Chambers in Mineola on Dec. 18.

Assembly sponsor Richard Gottfried, chair of the Health Committee, said the hearings will hopefully alert more New Yorkers to the uses of medical marijuana and the breadth of support for its legalization. According to a poll by the Siena College Research Institute conducted in May of 2013, 82 percent of New Yorkers said they would support legalizing the use of medical marijuana.

“There are thousands of New Yorkers with serious debilitating or life-threatening illnesses whose lives could be made better or longer if we joined the many other states that recognize legitimate medical uses,” Gottfried said. “From the District of Columbia to Maine, the only state without medical marijuana is New York. We’re going to have health care professionals and patients and their families talking about the very real medical importance.”

Under the proposed bill, patients must be determined to have a severely debilitating or life-threatening condition in order to become certified as a user. Once someone is determined to have significant need, they would have to register with the Department of Health, which would regulate registry cards for individuals. Medical marijuana would not be covered by health insurance. Under the bill, the agency would also be responsible for licensing and regulating organizations who are permitted to produce and dispense medical marijuana.

Registered organizations would be required to comply with “seed to sale” regulations, a term for strict regulation and tracking of the product at all stages of its production, as well as the regulations set by I-STOP legislation, which monitors and tracks prescriptions. According to Gottfried, the structure New York would adopt would be among the most closely regulated in the nation.

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