Support builds for NY medical marijuana law
Updated: Wednesday, February 19 2014, 07:04 PM EST
Nearly nine of ten New Yorkers responding to a recent poll support legalizing marijuana for medical purposes. Now it appears state lawmakers are coming around too.
The "Compassionate Care Act" has languished for years. Now it appears if it is called for a vote, it will pass. The bill's sponsor, Senator Diane Saving of Staten Island, said there are 40 "yes" votes in the senate.
Yet it's unclear whether it will come to a vote.
"It's passed four times in the Assembly but it has to get to the Senate floor for a vote before it can move forward," said breast cancer survivor Holly Anderson. "Without that it is going to languish like we've seen every year."
Anderson is the director of the Breast Cancer Coalition, an organization which backs the legislation. It would allow New York to join 20 other states that allow medical marijuana, but only under guidelines more restrictive than any we've yet seen.
Among other things, medical marijuana would be available only to people with certain severe or life-threatening conditions and require those patients to be certified as users and tracked by the Department of Health. Prescriptions would also be tracked and monitored.
The bill is being held up by the Senate health committee. Committee member Ted O'Brien has a problem with the provision allowing the drug to be smoked.
"My point is that while we have spent millions of dollars on tobacco smoking cessation, let's not encourage smoking in other contexts," O’Brien said.
"We don't think our elected officials should be the ones deciding how the drug is administered. It's really up to the physician," argues Anderson. She says different patients use it different ways, including via oils, lotions, patches and in vaporizer form.
Governor Cuomo is moving forward with his own plan to get around the stalemate. He wants to allow up to 20 hospitals around the state to dispense medical marijuana under existing drug laws that allow for the use of experimental drugs.
Yet it's unclear what kind of access patients and doctors will have in communities that are not chosen for his program. It's also not clear if children would benefit.
Christine Emerson's seven year old daughter Julia suffers from epilepsy. She tells 13WHAM News she is planning to move to Colorado.