As the debate over medical marijuana goes on across the country, the New York State Assembly Committee on Health today passed a bill that would legalize the use of marijuana for patients suffering from life-threatening medical conditions. Currently, 14 states have laws that allow medical use of marijuana, and a bill in New Jersey is expected to be signed into law before January 19th.
New York State's bill, modeled on Rhode Island's law, requires patients to have a physician or licensed prescriber certify their need for marijuana for treatment of a statutorily defined "serious medical condition." Patients must then file their certification with the Department of Health and receive a registration card from the state. Possession would be limited to two and a half ounces.
"If a patient and their physician are in agreement that the most effective way of controlling their symptoms is marijuana, government should not stand in the way of treatment," said Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried, Chair of the Assembly Health Committee and sponsor of the bill. "It is cruel to turn end-stage patients into criminals when they are following what their doctor recommends for relief."
THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, has been approved by the Federal Food and Drug Administration and Drug Enforcement Agency in synthetic pill form since 1986. THC in pill form commonly delivers a larger dose than the patient needs or can tolerate. There is substantial medical judgment that consuming marijuana naturally makes it easier to control the dosage and symptoms are easier to manage. This method, however, remains illegal in New York.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has stated that the federal government will not interfere in states with medical marijuana laws unless both state and federal laws were broken.
The bill is supported by: the Medical Society of the State of New York, the New York State Nurses Association, the Hospice and Palliative Care Association of New York State, Statewide Senior Action Council, Gay Men's Health Crisis, the New York AIDS Coalition, the New York State AIDS Institute Advisory Council, the Oncology Nursing Association (New York State chapter), the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, the American Academy of HIV Medicine, and Housing Works. Nationally, medical use of marijuana is supported by the American Public Health Association, the American Bar Association, and the Lymphoma Foundation of America, among others.