New York medical marijuana bill faces key hearing today


A bill that would legalize medical cannabis for certain qualifying conditions in New York faces its first obstacle today in the state Senate Health Committee. The seventeen-member panel will decide whether state Sen. Diane Savino’s bill will move forward to the full Senate for consideration.
But that might be tough going.

According to language of the bill, physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners would be able to recommend medical cannabis for patients with a wide range of conditions including HIV/aids, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, MS, traumatic brain injury, epilepsy, severe vomiting, wasting syndrome, arthritis, lupus and several others. New conditions would be allowed with the approval of the state health department.
The state Health Department would be charged with licensing medical marijuana dispensaries, including hospitals. Patients would be allowed 2.5 ounces every thirty days and would have to come from a dispensary – home cultivation is not part of the bill. All cannabis grown would be tracked from “seed to sale” and establish a 7 percent excise tax on wholesales of cannabis among distributors with money going to county and city coffers as well as drug treatment facilities.
The bill was amended so that only those 21 and up would be legally allowed to smoke cannabis.
According to Savino, an independent Democrat, her bill already has the support of nearly 40 lawmakers in the state senate, including several republicans. But members of the state Senate health committee, including chairman Hemp Kannon Kemp Hannon, don’t seem to be too keen on the measure.
If the bill does pass through the health committee, it would face the state Senate Finance Committee. It would be notable because it would be the first time that has ever happened.
Savino’s bill could also get watered down by a competing medical cannabis bill that is much more conservative. Sponsored by state Sen. Phil Boyle, a Republican from Long Island, the competing bill wouldn’t allow anyone to smoke cannabis and would limit medical marijuana to edibles and vaporizable oils. Activists are opposed to Boyle’s measure, saying that it severely limits access to medical marijuana for patients who need it, as well as removing the ability to smoke cannabis for patients who require immediate relief for symptoms.