Advocates Spark Debate To Legalize Medical Marijuana

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Some state lawmakers continued their push to legalize medical marijuana before the session ends in late June, pointing to a poll released Wednesday that showed opposition to the measure has gone up in smoke.

Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan, who serves as chair of the Assembly Health Committee, said the bill currently being discussed would have some of the most restrictive regulations to acquire medicinal marijuana in the country. Currently, 17 states allow medical use of marijuana.

At a news conference on Wednesday attended by Gannett’s Aaron Scholder, Gottfried said the bill received favorable support in a Health Committee meeting on Tuesday, with four of the committee’s seven Republicans supporting the measure.

“Thousands of New Yorkers suffer from serious debilitating and life-threatening conditions whose lives could be made more livable and longer in many cases if we allow them to be treated under medical supervision with the use of medical marijuana,” Gottfried said.

But Senate Republicans have been lukewarm to the bill, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo said last month he’s opposed to it — leaving little chance of its passage this year.

The bill would require patients to secure a certification from a doctor who has determined that marijuana would help with the symptoms of their condition. The patient would then have to send that certification to the state Department of Health, which would issue a card to be used at a specially registered hospital or pharmacy.

If there were no hospital within 20 miles of the patient’s home, a small amount of home production would be allowed, officials said.

The most amount of the drug that any patient could possess at one time would be 2.5 ounces.

The legislators said were confident that the measure would prevent people from trying to secure the drug for recreational use because of the tedious process necessary to acquire it.

A Siena poll released on Wednesday that showed big support from New Yorkers for passing it. The poll found that 57 percent of New Yorkers support passing the bill with 33 percent opposed.

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