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Substance abuse counselors applaud final version of medical marijuana bill

Photo from NYS Governor Website

A local leader in substance abuse treatment says the new medical marijuana bill Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law is much less a path to legalization than earlier proposals.

Leaders of the Erie County Council for the Prevention of Alcohol and Substance Abuse objected to provisions in earlier bills that allowed marijuana to be used for a wide array of diseases, even when there was no medical proof of its effectiveness. For them, allowing patients to smoke their marijuana was a very long bridge too far.

Executive Director Andrea Wanat says the new law includes provisions that make it clear marijuana is a drug that is neither safe nor legal, especially the ban on smoking it. Its use is restricted to pills, creams or oils.

Wanat says her group was concerned the earlier proposals were closer to what some other states have done in allowing the open sale of medical marijuana for smoking, but that the final version was "a new version of the bill we were pleased with."

"The governor really seemed to put some tough situations down and really made it seem like medical marijuana, not just a step toward legalized marijuana which we really felt the first bill was trying to accomplish," Wanat says.

Wanat says what New York is doing is very different from states like Colorado and Washington, which are basically legalizing marijuana. She says there needs to be education to make sure everyone understands it is not legal for recreational use.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.