GOP lawmaker now says she’ll support it
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Momentum appeared to be building in favor of the legalization of medical marijuana in New York State as lawmakers entered the home stretch of their legislative session.
As a sign of the growing support for legalized medical marijuana, a Brooklyn lawmaker who had previously been opposed to the idea suddenly announced that she is switching sides.
Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-C-Bay Ridge-Staten Island) has become the first Republican elected official in New York City to support legalizing pot for medical purposes.
Malliotakis, who has consistently voted against bills calling for medical marijuana to be legalized, announced her change of heart on Monday. The State Assembly has already approved a medical marijuana bill sponsored by Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D-Chelsea-Murray Hill), chairman of the Health Committee. The measure is now in the State Senate, where supporters, including state Sen. Diane Savino (D-Coney Island-Bensonhurst-Staten Island), the bill’s sponsor in that chamber, are racing against the clock to secure passage before the legislative session ends on June 19.
“Anybody who ever had a family member suffer from a debilitating disease learns very quickly the limitations of modern medicine at treating pain,” Savino said when she first introduced the bill. “Doctors and patients have documented that marijuana can offer very effective pain treatment where other medications have failed for many patients who suffer from other life-threatening or debilitating conditions.”
Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use, according to medicalmarijuana.procon.org.
Malliotakis pointed to two factors that weighed heavily on her decision: 1) The new proposed legislation being put forth contains strict controls over the dispensation of marijuana; and 2) The advocacy of patients and families who told her how badly the new law is needed to help them cope with devastating illnesses.
“I’ve spoken with many patients over the last few months, including a woman who took up to 17 pills a day and the family of a three-year-old Staten Island boy who suffers from a rare and severe form of epilepsy. I’ve seen firsthand the need to have the same option that hundreds of thousands of patients in 22 states have in using an organic alternative for relief. They don’t want to be limited to addictive prescriptions and deserve to improve their quality of life,” Malliotakis said in a statement.
The bill is called the Compassionate Care Act.
“The Compassionate Care Act will ensure the balance between getting patients the relief they deserve and preventing marijuana from being sold on the black market. It’s this approach to compassion and control that enables me for the first time to support a medical marijuana program for our state,” Malliotakis said. “For the last three years, I have voted against legalizing medical marijuana because the legislation offered few or no controls on access and seemed more like back door attempts to secure legalization for recreational use. I could not support any legislation that did not provide strict controls and a legitimate regulatory structure."
The current version of the bill includes several amendments, including: limiting availability to 20 terminal and debilitating diseases; prohibiting smoking for patients under the age of 21; prohibiting smoking in public; and requiring a physician to recommend the proper dosage for the patient; creation of a board of medical experts to decide who is eligible to be given marijuana for medical purposes.
The New York Daily News reported on Monday that Governor Andrew Cuomo is softening his stance. Cuomo stated that he is open to the idea of signing medical marijuana legislation, the first time he has publicly made such a statement, according to the News.