Savino: Medical marijuana has more than enough votes in Senate

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Sen. Diane Savino, a member of the Independent Democratic Conference, pushed a bill Tuesday that would legalize the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes and said 38 senators will vote for it.

Six others are “leaning yes,” the Staten Island senator said at a news conference near the Capitol with advocates.

“We only need 32 in the Senate. We’re going to get this bill done this year,” she said.

Savino said the bill, which passed the Assembly Health Committee Tuesday, is now more palatable to senators than it has been in past when the chamber blocked it. Also sponsored by Assembly Health Committee Chairman Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan, the legislation would tightly regulate marijuana from “seed to sale.”

Key differences in the revised bill include a more tightly regulated definition of the types of illnesses people must suffer from in order to qualify for medical marijuana. Also, the original bill allowed some people to grow their own marijuana. This bill eliminates that provision.

Under the bill, a physician would certify that a patient is qualified to use marijuana medicinally, and the state Health Department would issue licenses to “registered organizations” to grow and dispense the marijuana.

Health care providers and patients’ advocates spoke at the news conference, arguing that marijuana is safer and less addictive than many drugs that can be legally prescribed by doctors, and it works better to improve patients’ quality of life.

Susan Rusinko, of Auburn, Cayuga County, said using marijuana to treat her multiple sclerosis symptoms has allowed her to remain actively involved in her children’s lives. Before she began using marijuana, she was often unable to walk and attend events like her sons’ sports games or music recitals.

“Marijuana is working. It is helping me to be active in my life,” said Rusinko, who was diagnosed in 2000. “Without the assistance of marijuana, I would not be standing up here today, asking, begging, pleading, and risking legal ramification, for your support to pass this.”

(Pictured above: Susan Rusinko, Auburn, Cayuga County)

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