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State Senate approves Medical Marijuana bill

The New York State Senate has passed the Medical Marijuana bill Friday afternoon in Albany. Lawmakers voted 49 to 10 in favor. This means  New York will now become the 23rd state to allow medical marijuana.

The bill calls to legalize marijuana use to alleviate pain and other symptoms for some severely ill patients.  The Assembly voted earlier Friday 111-13 approving the bill following a compromise with Governor Andrew Cuomo.

But the drug won't be available in New York for at least 18 months while tough regulations are written. Five state-approved producers and distributors need to be selected. 

Many senators say use of medical marijuana will help alleviate suffering of children with seizures.

The bill doesn't allow the drug to be sold in plant form or smoked. It could be administered through a vaporizer or in an oil base.  Marijuana could be prescribed for 10 diseases, including cancer, epilepsy, AIDS and neuropathy.

State Senator Tim Kennedy of Buffalo supported the bill.

"It's been decades in the making",  said Kennedy.  Kennedy appeared on the State Senate floor Friday saying the state is taking a positive step forward in helping those who will benefit from the use of medical marijuana for the illness. 

Republican State Senator Patrick Gallivan of Elma also supported passage of the bill.  Gallivan, a former Erie County Sheriff,  was once against using marijuana for medical purposes.

"I was outspoken against it, beginning 15-years ago because at the point and time, there was no medical evidence whatsoever that there was legitimate medicinal use for marijuna. The science has changed," noted Gallivan. "There's no question this is significant, and I feel very happy for the families."

Provisions of the agreement include:

  • Patients will have to receive a certification from a licensed physician registered with the New York State Department of Health (DoH). The patient will then be issued a registration card.  
  • Eligible conditions include cancer, HIV/AIDS, ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease), Parkinson's Disease, multiple sclerosis, damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathies, Huntington's Disease, or others as added by the New York State Commissioner of Health. The Commissioner is also directed to determine within 18 months of enactment the eligibility of Alzheimer's Disease, muscular dystrophy, dystonia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Medical marijuana may be administered in forms approved by DoH, but may not be smoked.  However, vaporizing devices (similar to refillable e-cigarettes) are permitted. 
  • Organizations seeking to manufacture or distribute medical marijuana will be registered by DoH. Five registered organizations will be allowed, and each organization can operate up to 4 dispensaries for a total of 20 statewide unless the Commissioner determines that more are needed to meet public health requirements.
  • An excise tax of 7% of the dispensing price will be paid by registered organizations.  45% of the revenue will be divided between the county in which the product is manufactured and the county in which it is dispensed; 5% to the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse; and 5% to the Division of Criminal Justice Services.  The rest goes to the state treasury.