By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Is New York going to become the next state to legalize marijuana? It’s too soon to tell, but one Brooklyn lawmaker is doing her best to make sure it happens.
State Sen. Diane Savino (D-Coney Island-Bensonhurst-Staten Island) is the sponsor of a bill that would legalize marijuana for medical purposes. Patients suffering from cancer and other severely debilitating or life-threatening conditions could be treated with medical marijuana under the proposed legislation introduced by Savino and Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried (D-Chelsea-Hell’s Kitchen). The bill is co-sponsored by 68 other legislators. When the bill went to the Assembly Health Committee, it was approved by 21-4. Three of the committee’s seven Republicans voted in favor of sending the bill to the full assembly for consideration.
It’s a bill whose time has come, according to Savino.
Savino and supporters of the bill held a rally on the steps of City Hall on April 25 to call for its passage.
“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. “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,” she said.
The bill has been endorsed by dozens of organizations including the New York State Nurses Association, the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, and the New York State AIDS Advisory Council.
Savino said a 2012 Siena poll found that a strong majority of New Yorkers support legalization of medical marijuana, 61 percent to 33 percent.
“If the patient and physician agree that the patient’s severe debilitating or life-threatening condition should be treated with medical marijuana, the government should not stand in the way,” Gottfried said. “Thousands of New Yorkers have serious medical conditions that would benefit from medical use of marijuana. It is cruel to deny treatment to patients who are suffering or to turn them into criminals,” he said.
The bill would allow medical use of marijuana under a doctor’s supervision. A practitioner who is licensed to prescribe controlled substances would certify that a patient has a severe debilitating or life-threatening condition that should be treated with the medical use of marijuana. Certifying and dispensing medical marijuana would be included in the state’s prescription monitoring system for controlled substances.
There would be safeguards to ensure that pot would only be smoked by people in dire condition, according to Savino. Under the legislation, the New York State Department of Health would license and regulate “registered organizations” to produce and dispense medical marijuana for certified patients. These organizations could be hospitals, for-profit businesses, or not-for-profit corporations, Savino said. They would be required to comply with detailed “seed to sale” security controls.