On Saturday, July 5, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Compassionate Care Act into law, making New York the 23rd state with an effective medical marijuana law. The law goes into effect immediately, although patients are not expected to have legal protections or safe access to medical marijuana until 2016.
The law’s passage is the product of many years of work by legislative champions, led by Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, and, more recently, Sen. Diane Savino, patients, their loved ones, and advocacy organizations, including MPP and Compassionate Care NY. Thanks to each and every one of you who made this law possible.
While there are many reasons to rejoice, the law is unfortunately much more limited than what was introduced, largely due to amendments Gov. Cuomo insisted upon. Many seriously ill patients will be left behind, at least initially.
Only patients with one of 10 serious conditions will qualify, although the health department is allowed to add qualifying conditions. The law allows far too few dispensaries by providing for no more than five growers, with up to four dispensing locations each. Patients will not be able to smoke cannabis. A summary of the new law is available here.
While this is a vital step forward, the work to ensure that all seriously ill patients who can benefit from medical cannabis have reasonable access to it is not done. Stay tuned for updates on how you can help improve New York’s new medical marijuana program.
Today, the Senate Health Committee will vote on Sen. Diane Savino’s medical marijuana bill. This will be the first time since 2010 that a Senate committee has voted on the Compassionate Care Act, which has already been approved by the Assembly four times. If the bill passes the Senate Health Committee, it must pass at least one more committee vote before heading to the full Senate.
Thousands of New Yorkers continue to suffer needlessly because they cannot safely access medical marijuana, including children enduring hundreds of debilitating seizures daily. Get to know some of these children by watching this video produced by our allies at “NY Parents for Legalizing MMJ.”
The Compassionate Care Act would provide safe, legal access to medical marijuana for thousands of patients. An overwhelming 88% of New Yorkers support allowing medical marijuana.
New York Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island) claims she has rallied enough votes to pass SB 4406, which legalizes medical marijuana. Thirty-nine senators, seven more than what is needed to pass the bill, have pledged their support.
However, gathering this support has come at a price. Three significant changes differentiate the current bill from the original.
First, physicians are limited to recommending medical marijuana for only 20 conditions. Secondly, the bill would create an advisory committee to recommend additions to the list of qualifying conditions. This board could also hear appeals for individual patients who fall outside of the list. Lastly, people under 21 would not be permitted to smoke marijuana as a treatment; they would be restricted to ingesting or vaporizing.
Other details of the bill include required medical marijuana cards for patients, a limit of up to 2.5 ounces per 30-day supply, and the dispensaries would have to pay taxes to the state.
According to the New York Daily News, it looks like the Senate’s Health Committee will take up the bill at noon on Tuesday.
This Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to announce an executive action creating a medical marijuana program. While it’s encouraging that he has realized patients should not be punished for using their medicine, unlike the medical marijuana bill sponsored by Assemblyman Richard Gottfried and Senator Diane Savino, Gov. Cuomo’s proposal would not create an effective program. The "State of the State" address will be streaming live at 11:30am ET on Wednesday.
It appears the governor’s plan would only allow patients to access marijuana from a limited number of hospitals, which would dispense marijuana that was either obtained from a federally approved source or that is illegal to dispense under federal law. But the federal government has refused to provide marijuana even to some short-term FDA-approved studies, and there is no reason to think it will approve marijuana for longer-term patient access. Meanwhile, hospitals surely wouldn’t break federal law by distributing unapproved marijuana.
A similar medical marijuana law that passed in Maryland last year, by all accounts, just won’t work. If you live in New York State, let your legislators know the way to protect patients is by enacting a comprehensive medical marijuana bill.
New York patients who suffer from debilitating illnesses deserve protection from prosecution, and access to medical marijuana through a viable program — such as those that have passed in 20 other states, plus D.C. If you are a New York resident, please email your legislators today and urge them to support Assemblyman Gottfried and Senator Savino’s medical marijuana bill.
In a 21 to 4 vote, the New York State Assembly Health Committee approved the use, production, and sale of medical marijuana.
Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island) and Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) introduced the medical marijuana bill (A.6357/S.4406) and are optimistic about its chances in the Senate, where it has failed in the past, due to the bill’s tight stipulations.
“We’re picking up support member by member,” stated Savino, following the committee’s decision. “My count now is we have 38 yes votes, solid yes votes, (and) six leaning yes. We only need 32 in the Senate: We’re going to get this bill done this year.”
The bill has been endorsed by dozens of organizations including the New York State Nurses Association, the Lymphoma Foundation of America, the Hospice and Palliative Care Association of New York State, and the New York State AIDS Advisory Council.
The bill will now head to the Assembly’s Code Committee.