Albany — Today, the New York State Assembly passed (A.6357-B/Gottfried) by a bipartisan vote of 91 – 34. This is the fifth time that the Assembly has passed a medical marijuana bill, and comes just months after the Assembly included the measure in their one-house state budget proposal. The bill, known as the Compassionate Care Act, would provide relief for thousands of New York patients suffering from serious and debilitating conditions – such as cancer, MS, and epilepsy — by allowing the use of medical marijuana under the supervision of their healthcare provider. Patients, caregivers, and providers watched from the gallery as the Assembly debated and then voted overwhelmingly in favor of the bill.
“Once again the Assembly has shown that it understands the needs of seriously ill patients in New York,” said Donna Romano of Syracuse. ”As someone who lives with MS and seizures, I know medical marijuana can help alleviate my suffering and that of thousands of other New Yorkers. I hope the Senate will finally do the right thing and pass the Compassionate Care Act now.”
While the bill has sailed through the Assembly, it’s been long bogged down in the Senate. Last week, the Senate Health Committee passed the measure — S.4406-B(Savino) – and the bill now awaits a vote in the Senate Finance Committee. Last week, Finance Committee Chair John DeFrancisco told the press he would allow a vote on the Compassionate Care Act, but only if Senate Leadership agrees to it.
“I applaud the leadership of the Assembly in passing the Compassionate Care Act for the fifth time,” said Kate Hintz of North Salem whose daughter Morgan suffers from a severe and life-threatening seizure disorder. “But my family can’t keep waiting; every day we wait is another day of seizures that could take our daughter’s life. It’s time for the Senate to follow the Assembly’s lead and pass the bill before more seriously ill New Yorkers needlessly suffer or die.”
Twenty-two other states and the District Columbia have passed medical marijuana laws; with the exception of Pennsylvania, New York is now surrounded by states that permit legal access to medical marijuana. Minnesota recently became the 22nd medical marijuana state when it passed a bill to allow some patients access to medical marijuana. But in New York, patients must still risk being arrested just for using a medication that relieves their pain and suffering.
“By passing the Compassionate Care Act once again, the Assembly has shown that it cares about me and other New Yorkers living with serious illnesses,” said Dawn Carney of Mt .Vernon, who has been living HIV since 1992. “The Senate should show the same kind of compassion; they should bring the bill to the floor for a vote.”
The bill has wide support from healthcare providers and dozens of organizations, such as the New York Academy of Medicine, Epilepsy Foundation, New York State Breast Cancer Network, New York State Nurses Association, Collaborative for Palliative Care, GMHC, New York State Pharmacists Society, and the Hospice and Palliative Care Association of New York.
Holly Anderson, Executive Director of the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochestersaid: “We join advocates from across New York State in expressing our deepest gratitude to the New York State Assembly, which recognizes the critical importance of the Compassionate Care Act. It has been gratifying to see your response to patients, many in desperate health situations. What has been an enormously frustrating process over many years is made better by your actions today. As we move forward with your Senate colleagues, we will implore them to do everything in their power to pass this legislation. Come on, Senate! We believe in you! Let’s get it done!”
The New York proposal was drafted with careful, strict controls: under tight regulation, a patient who has been certified by a healthcare practitioner to use medical marijuana would register with the New York State Department of Health and receive a patient identification card. Specially approved organizations would dispense the marijuana to registered patients, under DOH supervision.
“I’m thrilled the Assembly passed the Compassionate Care Act today,” said Nancy Rivera, a four-time cancer survivor from Troy. “Medical marijuana can help relieve the pain and suffering of so many seriously ill and debilitated New Yorkers. Whether they serve in my district or yours, it’s time for the Senate to stop stalling and stand with patients across New York. They need to pass this bill now.”
A recent Quinnipiac poll found that 83% of New York voters support medical marijuana, and the bill has strong bipartisan support in the Senate. Senator Bonacic (R-Middletown), Senator George Maziarz (R – Newfane), Senator Mark Grisanti (R, IP – Buffalo), Senator Tim O’Mara (R, C – Big Flats, Elmira) and bill co-sponsor, Senator Joe Robach (R, C, IP – Rochester all publicly support the Compassionate Care Act. If allowed to the Senate floor for a vote, the bill is expected to pass.
“It is heartening to see so many members of the Assembly stand with patients today and vote on the side of science and compassion,” said gabriel sayegh, state director of the Drug Policy Alliance. ”Now it’s time for the full Senate to vote on the Compassionate Care Act and for the Governor to sign it. New Yorkers living with cancer, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS and other serious and debilitating conditions have waited years for relief while our leaders in Albany have played politics with their lives. Enough is enough. It’s time to stop this needless suffering; it’s time for the Compassionate Care Act to become law.”