Blog Post

Creating a Medical Marijuana Program in New York

Julie Netherland

New York may soon join the twenty states and the District of Columbia that currently have medical marijuana laws.

Today, dozens of patients and caregivers of those living with cancer, multiple sclerosis, severe seizure disorders, and other serious, debilitating medical conditions gathered in Mineola for a hearing of the NY State Assembly Health Committee. This hearing follows one held earlier this month in Buffalo, where the room was filled with supporters.

Patients and healthcare providers called on the New York State Legislature to pass the Compassionate Care Act -- A.6357-A (Gottfried) / S.4406-A (Savino), a bill which would create one of the nation’s most tightly regulated medical marijuana programs. The bill would allow seriously ill New Yorkers access to a small amount of medical marijuana under the supervision of their healthcare provider.

In a series of compelling testimonies, parents whose children are suffering from intractable seizure disorders, cancer survivors, and people living with multiple sclerosis spoke about how their lives and those of their loved ones could be improved through the use of medical marijuana.

The bill enjoys wide popular support; a recent Siena College Poll found that 82 percent of New York voters support medical marijuana.  Many of those at the hearing expressed their growing frustration that patients in New York continue to suffer, while those in surrounding states where medical marijuana is legal have access to a medication that has been proven to help a number of serious conditions.

The bill enjoys strong support from healthcare providers and organizations, such as the New York State Nurses Association, the Collaborative for Palliative Care, New York State Pharmacists Society, the New York State Psychological Association, the Hospice and Palliative Care Association of New York, and NY Physicians for Compassionate Care, a group representing more than 600 New York physicians.

Healthcare providers and researchers at the hearing testified about the overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrating the efficacy of medical marijuana for a range of conditions and symptoms, such as epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, MS, and cancer. Dr. Sunil Aggarwal, a physician and researcher explained how the DEA and NIDA have successfully created a catch-22 for American patients, doctors, and scientists by denying that marijuana is a medicine because it is not approved by the FDA, while simultaneously obstructing the very research that would be required for FDA to approve marijuana as a medicine. That is why twenty states have moved ahead to alleviate the suffering of their residents by creating medical marijuana programs.

“Right now, patients and families in New York are forced to choose between the law, moving out of state, or suffering needlessly,” said gabriel sayegh, state director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “It’s time to stop treating patients like criminals, it’s time to restore compassion in New York. It’s time to pass the Compassionate Care Act.”

Julie Netherland, is the New York deputy state director for the Drug Policy Alliance.

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