Albany — Yesterday, dozens of patients living with cancer, multiple sclerosis, osteoarthritis, and other serious, debilitating medical conditions travelled from around the state to demand that the New York State Senate pass the Compassionate Care Act (S.4406/Savino) immediately. The bill, which would create one of the nation’s most tightly regulated medical marijuana programs, would allow seriously ill patients access to a small amount of marijuana under the supervision of their healthcare provider.
Last week, the Assembly passed the bill with bipartisan vote of 99-41, the widest margin of the four times the bill has been passed in that chamber.
“From Delaware to Maine, almost every state allows medical use of marijuana,” said Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried, noting that 18 states and the District of Columbia currently have medical marijuana laws. ”If the patient and physician agree that a severe debilitating or life-threatening condition should be treated with medical marijuana, the government should not stand in the way. This is sensible, strict, and humane legislation,” Gottfried added.
A recent Siena Poll found that an overwhelming 82% of New York voters support medical marijuana, including 81% of both Republicans and Democrats. Despite this broad support, the Senate has never let the bill come to the floor for a vote.
“I have suffered from excruciating nausea and pain from the many chemotherapy treatments I have undergone,” said Nancy Rivera,Troy resident and survivor of two bouts of breast cancer, colon cancer and throat cancer. “During a series of chemo and radiation treatments, I lost 40 pounds in 3 months. I have never used medical marijuana since it is not legal; however, I think all cancer patients should have the legal option of trying medical marijuana if their provider recommends it.”
“As someone who has lived with HIV/AIDS for 20 years, I know that medical marijuana can help with the side effects of HIV medications,” said Dawn Carney of Mount Vernon. “It is simply wrong that New Yorkers living with serious and life-threatening conditions have to break the law just to use a medication that can relieve their symptoms. Patients have suffered long enough! It’s time for the Senate to pass this bill,” she said.
Eighteen states and the District Columbia have passed laws creating legal access to medical marijuana for seriously ill patients, and physicians in every state bordering New York -except Pennsylvania – have the ability to recommend this effective and safe treatment for their patients.
“I live with multiple sclerosis, and I know that medical marijuana can make difficult illnesses easier to bear by alleviating some of the worst symptoms,” said Donna Romano, a mother and grandmother from Syracuse. She added, “It’s time for the Senate to do the compassionate and humane thing and to pass this bill. We can’t wait any longer.”
Patients were joined in Albany by healthcare providers, including Dr. Howard Grossman, MD, Chair of NY Physicians for Compassionate Care, a group representing more than 600 NY physicians who support medical marijuana.
“A significant body of scientific evidence has established the efficacy of medical cannabis for conditions such as multiple sclerosis, pain and muscle spasms and to stimulate appetite and weight gain in patients with wasting syndromes. In addition, medical cannabis is safer than many of the medications physicians routinely prescribe,” said Dr. Grossman. “That’s why I and more than 600 other New York doctors support the creation of a state-regulated, well-controlled system for insuring that seriously ill patients can access medical marijuana under the supervision of their healthcare provider as outlined in the New York legislation.”
Dr. Mark Pettus, Chief of Medicine at St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany, said: “Quite frankly I worry much more about the toxicity and limited efficacy of many commonly prescribed medications approved by the FDA than I do medical marijuana use for specific clinical indications where evidence is strong and growing for many who are suffering due to limitations of currently accepted treatments.”
The bill also enjoys wide support from healthcare providers and organizations, such as the New York State Nurses Association, the Collaborative for Palliative Care, GMHC, New York State Pharmacists Society, and the Hospice and Palliative Care Association of New York.
“The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) supports this legislation because it creates a carefully controlled system allowing seriously ill New Yorkers access to the therapeutic and palliative benefits of medical marijuana under the supervision of their healthcare provider,” said Jill Furillo, RN, Executive Director, NYSNA.
“Senate leaders should pass this bill now or explain why they’ve chosen to allow thousands of seriously ill New Yorkers to continue to needlessly suffer,” said gabriel sayegh, director of the Drug Policy Alliance’s New York Office. ”New Yorkers overwhelming favor this bill as do hundreds of healthcare providers across the state, dozens of organizations, and thousands of patients. It’s time to stop treating people living with multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, cancer and other serious conditions like criminals. It’s time for the Senate to pass the Compassionate Care Act now.”