For the second year in a row, the New York Assembly has passed a medical marijuana bill. But the state Senate must act by Monday, when the legislature recesses, or the effort to enact a medical marijuana law in the Empire State will be dead for this year.
The Assembly bill, sponsored by Rep. Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan), would allow patients to use marijuana for specified life-threatening or debilitating conditions upon their doctors' certification that it is the most effective treatment. Patients and caregivers would register with the state and receive ID cards. They would be allowed to grow up to 12 plants and possess 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana, although the bill foresees a state-regulated distribution system upon approval of the federal government.
After the state Senate balked at the last minute last year, supporters of the medical marijuana bill attempted to assuage the worries of foes, some of whom felt that last year's version did not provide adequate regulation. The state-regulated distribution system attempts to address those concerns.
"Every day that goes by without this sensible, compassionate law is a day in which our most vulnerable citizens must choose between suffering debilitating pain or risking arrest in order to find relief," said bill sponsor and Assembly Health Committee Chair Gottfried in a statement from the Marijuana Policy Project, which supports the bill. "These patients don't have the luxury of waiting another year for their elected representatives to act -- they need the Senate to stand up for them now."
No word yet on what the Senate Republicans will do. Last year, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno said he supported medical marijuana, but changed his mind at the last minute. This year one of his staffers delivered a statement for Bruno at an event organized by the Marijuana Policy Project to support the New York state lobbying effort to pass the bill, so maybe this will be the year.