The New York State legislature has approved an emergency measure that would allow specific patients the ability to receive medical marijuana before the state’s begins in 2016.
On Monday, the Republican-dominated state Senate voted 50 to 12 in favor of a bill that would grant immediate access to medicinal cannabis for thousands of patients across the state suffering from “progressive and degenerative” conditions. The proposal, which was submitted by Republican Senator Joseph Griffo, now heads to the desk of Governor Andrew Cuomo for final approval.
“Our top priority has always been to deliver relief to those in pain,” Rich Azzopardi, a spokesman for the Cuomo Administration, said in a statement. “We will review the legislation in the context of implementing the Compassionate Care Act and complying with existing federal statutes.”
While the remarks from Cuomo’s office appear reassuring that the measure will be signed into law, the governor’s actions over the course of the past year has created some doubt. After the passing of the Compassionate Care Act in 2014, State Senator Diane Savino, the bill’s sponsor, said that Cuomo was the primary obstacle in passing the legislation because he is “not interested in medical marijuana” and had professed his disdain for the concept on a number of occasions.
Nevertheless, the Governor eventually put his seal of the approval on the deal, but only after ripping the program to shreds to make it super restrictive.
Senator Griffo remains optimistic that the governor will come through for devastatingly ill New Yorkers that “may not survive as they wait for the Compassionate Care Act,” while Senator Savino, who was instrumental in the passing of the state’s medical marijuana program, argued against the fast-tracking of emergency legislation. She is concerned that its focus will undermine the big picture and potentially cause some unwanted chaos that could prolong the launch of the full program next year.
“We need to stay the course we have set,” said Savino. “We are on the right road. We will have full access for all patients, not just cherry-picking the suffering of some — even if they’re sympathetic.”
A statement issued by the Senate Independent Democratic Conference, which Savino is a member, suggests that even if Governor Cuomo signs this emergency legislation immediately, patients would still have to wait for the Department of Health to establish regulations, as well as determine who would be awarded the license to cultivate the initial crop – possibly taking three months before it is ready for harvest.
“These steps could take things very close to the starting time of the full program,” wrote the IDC.
Even if the Cuomo signs the bill, patients who qualify for emergency access would still have to wait for their physicians to complete the Department of Health’s medical marijuana training program before receiving a recommendation. Since the regulations are still in the process of being developed, no doctors in the state of New York have yet been cleared to write “special certifications” for cannabis medicine.