Medical Marijuana : Support in NY Grows

May 30, 2013

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One-third of Americans now reside in a state where medical marijuana is legal. Lawmakers in Albany are considering a bill that would create a state-regulated medical marijuana program allowing seriously ill patients to have access to the drug under the supervision of a healthcare practicioner. Mental health and treatment professionals participated in a conference call to discuss the issue today.

Advocates say more than 600 doctors from across the state have pledged support to end criminalizing patients who use medical marijuana under professional supervision.

What many doctors would like to see, according to a New England Journal of Medicine survey published Wednesday, is more evidence on the use of marijuana as medicine, so they can make a better-informed decision one way or the other.

Dr. Julie Holland is a psychiatrist, medical cannabis researcher, and Dutchess County Fellow of The New York Academy of Medicine. She says there’s a lot of red tape involved in getting the government to release any research-grade cannabis.

A recent poll by the Siena Research Institute found that 82 percent of New York voters support allowing seriously and terminally ill people to legally use marijuana for medical purposes if recommended by a doctor.  Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried is a powerful Democrat in the chamber. He is confident the bill will pass this year.

Steve Katz, the Westchester County Assemblyman ticketed for marijuana possession during a traffic stop in March, voted Wednesday to decriminalize small amounts of pot. Katz was the sole Republican to support the Assembly bill that would lower the penalty for publicly possessing less than 15 grams of marijuana from a misdemeanor to a violation. Its future in the Senate is uncertain.

Katz has declined to comment; he voted against the legalization of medicinal marijuana last year.