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Top state lawmakers agree on medical marijuana

ALBANY - Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders announced an agreement on a bill that will establish a medical marijuana program for New York State. The legislation includes provisions to ensure medical marijuana is reserved only for patients with serious conditions and is dispensed and administered in a manner that protects public health and safety.

"This legislation strikes the right balance," Governor Andrew Cuomo said. "Medical marijuana has the capacity to do a lot of good for a lot of people who are in pain and suffering, and are in desperate need of a treatment that will provide some relief. At the same time, medical marijuana is a difficult issue because there are risks to public health and safety that have to be averted. I believe this bill is the right balance, and I commend the members of the Legislature who worked so hard on this measure."

Senate Co-Leader Jeffrey Klein (D, 34) said, "Under this legislation, New York will have one of the safest, most effective Medical Marijuana programs in the country. By taking this historic step thousands of desperate patients will get the relief and treatment they need. This program will evolve in real-time as science develops ensuring a long-term, self-sustaining, patient-centric program."

To ensure medical marijuana is available only to patients with serious conditions who can most benefit from the treatment, the legislation establishes a certification and registry process for physicians to administer the drug.

To be prescribed medical marijuana, a patient must receive a certification from a licensed practitioner who must register with the Department of Health and be qualified to treat the serious condition for which the patient is seeking treatment. The serious conditions for which medical marijuana can be prescribed are cancer, HIV/AIDS, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), Parkinson’s Disease, multiple sclerosis, damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication on intractable spasticity, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathies, Huntington’s Disease, or as added by the commissioner by DOH.

To ensure medical marijuana is in the hands of only individuals in need and their health care provider, Registry Identification Cards will be issued by DOH to certified patients. The card would contain any recommendation or limitation on form or dosage imposed by the practitioner as well as other information. The Department would be able to suspend or revoke the card of a patient who willfully violates any provision of the new law.

Health insurers would not be required to provide coverage for medical marijuana.