New York has become the latest state to see medical marijuana legislation introduced this year. On Tuesday, Assemblyman Richard Gottfried filed Assembly Bill 6357 and Senator Diane Savino filed companion legislation, Senate Bill 4406.
Drug reform and marijuana advocacy groups welcomed the introduction of the bills, but some expressed concerns that the measures as written do not provide enough protection for patients.
"Patients and their families in New York have suffered far too long because New York continues its retrograde approach to marijuana policies, even as other states move forward with more sensible approaches," said Julie Netherland, deputy director of New York policy for the Drug Policy Alliance. "The Drug Policy Alliance stands with hundreds of patients, healthcare providers, and organizations across New York in calling for the legislature to pass this sensible and humane legislation as soon as possible. A growing body of research shows that medical marijuana can be an effective treatment for a number of serious conditions. People living with multiple sclerosis, cancer, Parkinson's, HIV/AIDS and other debilitating conditions should not have to wait any longer to get access to a medicine that may help alleviate their pain and other symptoms. There is simply no sensible reason for patients and their families to wait any longer for relief."
"Empire State NORML welcomes the long awaited introduction of S. 4406/A. 6357," the group said in a statement Tuesday. "We support the bill, and will work hard with Compassionate Care NY, the New York Cannabis Alliance, and other allies for Senate passage for the first time and Gov. Cuomo’s signature."
But while supporting the bills, Empire State NORML expressed two reservations. It noted that the bills have no affirmative defense provision for patients possessing more than 2.5 ounces for medically necessary reasons and asked that such provisions be added. And the group expressed concern over the lack of a patient or caregiver cultivation provision.
"Empire State NORML strongly supports the right of certified patients or their designated caregivers to cultivate their own medicine," the group said. "But there should at least be a hardship provision for certain certified patients with transportation, physical or financial difficulties or their designated caregivers to cultivate their own medicine instead of having to rely on registered organizations."
Will this be the year New York joins its neighbors in embracing medical marijuana? The state shares borders with Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Vermont, as well as Canada. All but Pennsylvania have already enacted medical marijuana laws.