The New York General Assembly yesterday approved a bill allowing medical marijuana use in the Empire State.
Assembly Bill 6357 was voted in with a 95-38 vote. The discussion now moves over to the state Senate in the next few weeks, which takes up the nearly identical Senate Bill 4406. If approved, the bill would allow for qualifying patients to receive a doctor’s recommendation to use cannabis. Patients would be allowed to possess up to 2.5 ounces purchased at one of several state-regulated medical marijuana dispensaries.
Overwhelmingly, New Yorkers favor medical marijuana legislation. A recent Sienna Research Institute Poll showed that 82 percent of voters agree that physicians should be able to recommend cannabis.
Opposition includes law enforcement and some physician groups who fear that legalizing medical cannabis would lead to increased use of the plant by non-patients. It also faces opposition from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who called medical marijuana “one of the greatest hoaxes of all time” in an interview with WOR radio in New York. He said medical marijuana is merely a Trojan horse for outright legalization – which he says would be detrimental to the state.
“If [drug dealers]can’t sell marijuana, they’ll sell something else, and the something else is going to be worse, and the push to legalize this is just wrong-headed,” he added. “But they say: ‘Oh, well, it’s not going to hurt anybody. It doesn’t lead to dependency.’ Of course it does. And you can argue about recreational things, but it’s a very slippery path.””
But the bill also clearly had supporters. Assemblywoman Deb Glick described how her sister benefited from cannabis during chemotherapy treatments. The bill’s sponsor also noted that cannabis is “one of the most benign, clinically active substances known to humanity.”
“Nothing is completely safe–I wouldn’t say that about marijuana or anything else,” Gottfried added, according to our sister paper The Village Voice. “President Bush almost choked to death tossing pretzels in his mouth.”
“This is the fourth time the State Assembly has passed a medical marijuana bill,” said Gabriel Sayegh, state director of the Drug Policy Alliance in a press release. “Now it’s long past time for the State Senate to act. The science is clear. The moral and ethical needs are obvious. The only thing holding this up is the Senate. Listen to the science, to healthcare practitioners, and to the vast majority of New Yorkers who support this proposal. It’s time for the Senate to pass the Compassionate Care Act.”
NORML has set up a page to directly email New York senators about the upcoming bill.