Law Permitting Use Of Medical Marijuana Passed By NY State Senate
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
New York may become the 23rd US state to approve the use of medical marijuana, as the State Senate passed a bill legalizing limited access to cannabis for health-related reasons by a margin of 49-10 on Friday.
According to CNN’s Lorenzo Ferrigno and Haimy Assefa, the bill known as the Compassionate Care Act was passed by the State Assembly earlier that morning. The new regulations, which could take up to 18 months to be fully implemented, will allow doctors to prescribe a non-smokable form of marijuana to patients suffering from a specific group of pre-determined medical conditions.
The law will not become official until the bill is signed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who Reuters noted has long resisted calls to legalize cannabis for medical purposes. Cuomo’s objections have been in part because of law enforcement concerns. However, the Compassionate Care Act is being called a compromise between those concerns and the health requirements of New York residents seeking relief from their ailments.
“There are certainly significant medical benefits that can be garnered; at the same time, it’s a difficult issue because there are also risks that have to be averted,” Governor Cuomo told Jesse McKinley of the New York Times on Friday. “We believe this bill strikes the right balance.”
“Medical marijuana has significant upsides and significant potential downsides,” he added, according to CNN. “We wanted to do right. And that was the balance that we had to find in this piece of legislation… It is a system that will provide the benefits to people who need it, which can be significant. Even for children, children with epilepsy. But it is a system that also has safeguards, will involve the State Police to monitor and supervise the system.”
The Compassionate Care Act will allow patients to either inhale vaporized extracts of marijuana’s active ingredients, or to consume them in food, Reuters said. While the New York State Department of Health will oversee how medical cannabis will be formulated in the state, Cuomo will have the discretion to end the program at any time. The law is set to expire after a period of seven years, but lawmakers will have the option of renewing it.
Among the conditions that qualify patients to use medical marijuana use are AIDS, cancer, epilepsy and several serious degenerative conditions, McKinley said. Health department officials have up to 18 months to set up the regulations governing the substance, which will initially be dispensed by five organizations at up to four locations throughout the state. The drug will be grown in-state and taxed at a rate of seven percent, he added.
Senator Diane Savino, one of the bill’s sponsors, called its passage “an historic victory for thousands of New Yorkers who will no longer have to suffer needlessly during their courageous medical battles. Under this bill, New Yorkers will now have the same access to life-changing treatment options that others around the country have had.”
In related news, Pope Francis on Friday weighed in on the debate over the legalization of recreational drugs, telling the Associated Press (AP) and other reporters that drug addiction “is an evil, and with evil there can be no yielding or compromise. To think that harm can be reduced by permitting drug addicts to use narcotics in no way resolves the problem.”
While the pontiff’s comments spoke primarily to the passage of laws pertaining to recreational use of these substances, and not directly to the legalization of such substances for medical purposes as in New York, AP reporter Nicole Winfield called his comments “his strongest and clearest yet” in the midst of a campaign against “the movement to legalize recreational pot, which has been gaining ground in recent years.”