Health and Fitness

New York Patient Advocates & Health Care Professionals Rally for Medical Marijuana Bill

Bill Passes Assembly Health Committee Today

NEW YORK—(ENEWSPF)—April 16, 2013. Patient advocates – including patients who use marijuana for medical purposes – and health care professionals came to Albany today to support legislation to allow medical use of marijuana in New York.  Patients suffering from severe debilitating or life-threatening conditions could be treated with medical marijuana under legislation introduced by Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried and Senator Diane J. Savino.  New York’s bill A. 6357/S.4406 is co-sponsored by 68 other legislators.  The bill was reported from the Assembly Health Committee today by 21-4, including 3 of the Committee’s 7 Republicans voting in favor. 


The bill has been endorsed by dozens of organizations including the New York State Nurses Association, the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, and the New York State AIDS Advisory Council.  A 2012 Siena poll found that a strong majority of New Yorkers support legalization of medical marijuana, 61%-33%, including 69%-27% among independent voters.[1] 

“If the patient and physician agree that the patient’s severe debilitating or life-threatening condition should be treated with medical marijuana, the government should not stand in the way,” said Gottfried.  “It is cruel to deny treatment to patients who are suffering or to turn them into criminals.”

“Thousands of New Yorkers have serious medical conditions that would benefit from medical use of marijuana,” Senator Savino said.  “Anybody who ever had a family member suffer from a debilitating disease learns very quickly the limitations of modern medicine at treating pain.  Doctors and patients have documented that marijuana can offer very effective pain treatment – where other medications have failed – for many patients who suffer from cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, and other life-threatening or debilitating conditions.” 

The bill would allow medical use of marijuana under a doctor’s supervision, for patients with cancer and other severe debilitating or life-threatening conditions.  A practitioner who is licensed to prescribe controlled substances would certify that a patient has a severe debilitating or life-threatening condition that should be treated with the medical use of marijuana.  Certifying and dispensing medical marijuana would be included in the I-STOP prescription monitoring system for controlled substances enacted in 2012.

The Health Department would license and regulate “registered organizations” to produce and dispense medical marijuana for certified patients.  These organizations could be hospitals, for-profit businesses, or not-for-profit corporations.  They would be required to comply with detailed “seed to sale” security controls, and a clinical advisory committee made up predominately of health care professionals would advise the Health Commissioner on clinical matters.

Medical marijuana legislation is supported by a broad array of organizations including:

  • AFSCME District Council 37
  • American Academy of HIV Medicine
  • American Bar Association
  • American Public Health Association
  • Compassion & Choices of New York
  • Drug Policy Alliance
  • Family Services Network of New York Inc.  
  • Gaia Plant Based Medicine
  • Gay Men’s Health Crisis
  • Gray Panthers, NYC Network
  • Hospice and Palliative Care Association of New York State
  • Housing Works
  • Independence Party of New York State
  • Latino Commission on AIDS
  • Lymphoma Foundation of America
  • New York AIDS Coalition
  • New York City Bar Association
  • New York State AIDS Advisory Council
  • New York State Nurses Association
  • Oncology Nursing Association (New York State chapter)
  • Pharmacists Society of the State of New York
  • Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union / United Food and Commercial Workers
  • Statewide Senior Action Council

 “When it’s your child who can’t help himself and is literally withering away in pain, you’d do anything to take that pain away. When people are suffering, we can at least give them their dignity.”  -Geri Barish, Long Island cancer survivor, whose son used medical marijuana before succumbing to cancer.

“I tried everything to deal with my pain.  Medical marijuana made it possible for me to get on with living my life and being there for my three boys. I shouldn’t have to face criminal charges for using a medicine that helps me.” -Susan Rusinko, Auburn, diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2000.

“When I ran out of my prescription opioids while doing Hurricane Katrina relief work, I tried medical marijuana and found it worked better than many of my prescription medications.”  -Joel Peacock, active Conservative Party member from Buffalo, who had three discs removed from his back following a severe car accident.

“I’m tired of feeling like a criminal just because I’ve found something that helps me control the symptoms of the severe illness that I’m dealing with.” -Wanda Hernandez, lifelong New Yorker diagnosed with HIV almost 20 years ago.

“The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) supports this legislation because we believe that it creates a carefully controlled system allowing seriously ill New Yorkers to take advantage of the therapeutic and palliative benefits of medical marijuana under the supervision of their healthcare provider” -Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, First Vice President, NYSNA Board of Directors.

“I am convinced by studies showing the benefit of medical cannabis for chronic and neuropathic pain, appetite stimulation, and nausea. More and more doctors are using medical marijuana in states where it is legal. It doesn’t make sense that doctors in New York cannot use medical marijuana in their practice.”–Craig D. Blinderman, MD, MA, Director, Adult Palliative Care Services, Co-Director, Center for Supportive Care and Clinical Ethics, Department of Medicine, Columbia University.

“I’ve seen firsthand how medical marijuana has helped many of our members. We support this sensible legislation because we believe that people living with multiple sclerosis and other serious illnesses should have the option of using medical marijuana if they and their doctors think it would help alleviate their symptoms. People shouldn’t have to break the law to get the help they need.” -Annette Simiele, Associate Director, MS Resources of Central New York

“Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW believes that the medical and pain relief properties of marijuana have been clearly documented and proven. We also believe that a vertically-integrated and tightly-controlled system of distribution will ensure that the marijuana produced in our state will be distributed only to patients who need it. We are also committed to developing this industry in a way that provides good middle-class jobs with living wages and proper benefits for a well-trained  nd qualified workforce.”-John R. Durso, President, Local 338, RWDSU/UFCW 

[1] Siena College Research Institute, June 3-6, 2012.  Crosstabs online at



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