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Medical Marijuana Moves Forward In New York

The state assembly passed a wide-ranging medical marijuana bill, but its future in the senate remains uncertain.

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By Shawn Dwyer

05/28/14

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On Tuesday, the Democratic-led assembly in New York state passed the Compassion Care Act 91-34. The bill will allow seriously ill patients certified by doctors, physician assistants, or nurse practitioners to possess and use up to two and a half ounces of medical marijuana.

“There are tens of thousands of New Yorkers with serious, debilitating, life-threatening conditions whose lives could be made more tolerable and longer by enacting this legislation,” said Assemblyman Richard N. Gottfried, a Manhattan Democrat who sponsored the bill.

While the bill sailed through the assembly, its fate remains uncertain in the Republican-controlled Senate, where it would have to clear the finance committee before being allowed to the floor for a vote. But Sen. Diane Savino (D-North Shore/Brooklyn) was optimistic after the bill squeaked through the Senate Health Committee on Tuesday, though she reminded colleagues that those suffering from cancer, multiple sclerosis, and other diseases have little time to wait.

"Unfortunately, many of them may not live long enough to see implementation of this bill," Savino said.

Opposition from Republicans remains, however, even though its eventual passage seems assured. Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn) said that while legalization was inevitable, “I don't believe it's now nor should it be now." The former NYPD officer deferred action to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, an idea Savino flatly rejected.

The FDA "takes its own sweet time," Savino said. Meanwhile, "people suffer. Children suffer. People die."

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