Assembly Passes Bill Giving Critically Ill Patients Expedited Access to Medical Marijuana

(NEWS FROM Assembly Health Committee Chair  Richard N. Gottfried) For Immediate Release Wednesday, 5/27/15, Contact Mischa Sogut, (518) 455-4941, — 

The Assembly today passed legislation directing the state to establish a program for critically ill patients to obtain emergency access to medical marijuana as soon as possible. The bill, A. 7060/S. 5086, was introduced by Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried and Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb. It has been 340 days since Governor Cuomo signed the medical marijuana bill into law on July 5, and ten months since the Governor urged the Health Commissioner to do everything in his power to get medical marijuana to children who could benefit from it.  To date, not one patient has received medical marijuana and at least four children who might have benefited from a well-known form of medical marijuana have died since the bill was signed.

“This bill would create emergency access to medical marijuana for patients with the most urgent needs – including children suffering from severe epilepsy,” said Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried, sponsor of the original medical marijuana bill. “The sponsorship of this bill shows the broad, bipartisan support for emergency access. It is good and compassionate public health policy. If ever there was a basis for emergency action, the suffering of these children is it.” The bill is sponsored in the Senate by Senator Joseph A. Griffo (R-Utica).

Since July 2014, advocates have been pressuring the Cuomo administration to create an emergency access program for patients who may not survive during the time the state is taking to get the full program up and running. The Administration recently adopted extremely restrictive regulations for the medical marijuana program that could prevent patients from obtaining the treatment they need.  The program contains no provisions for expediting access for those suffering from terminal or life-threatening illnesses.

“The Governor announced in January 2014 that he was reactivating the 1980 Olivieri medical marijuana ‘research’ program, and 17 months later nothing has come of it,” added Gottfried. “There are New Yorkers suffering right now whose lives could be made better by access to medical marijuana. If the Department of Health does not believe it can have the 2014 Compassionate Care Act system fully up and running before 2016, the least it can do is offer emergency relief to the patients who need it most.”

Currently, those with terminal or critical illnesses and their families are forced to break the law, move to states where medical marijuana is legally available, or watch their loved ones suffer knowing that there is a medication that could help them. The new bill, which passed with broad bi-partisan support, instructs the state to establish an emergency program for critically ill patients to start receiving medical marijuana as quickly as possible.  Recently, Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia swiftly signed a medical marijuana law to help children with severe epilepsy and announced the system should be up and running in the next 30 to 60 days. He went further and issued temporary patient cards to seven families who had moved to other states as they awaited action so that they could return home without fear of prosecution.

NEWS FROM Assembly Health Committee Chair  Richard N. Gottfried, 822 Legislative Office Building, Albany, NY 12248 – Tel: 518-455-4941, 250 Broadway, #2232, New York, NY 10007 – Tel: 212-312-1492,  Twitter: @DickGottfried