Cuomo’s Plan To Ease Up Marijuana Possession Laws Draws Debate
Governor Andrew Cuomo has garnered the attention of those who support the legalization of medical marijuana after he asked for a reduction in penalties for illegal possession last week. NY1’s Health reporter Kafi Drexel filed the following report.
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For 15 years, Assemblyman Richard Gottfried has been pressing bills to legalize medical marijuana in New York State. With a newly revamped bill that would have the toughest restrictions in the country and fresh support from state Senator Diana Savino, he’s hoping attempt 15 will be a charm.
“Thousands of New Yorkers suffer serious, debilitating, life-threatening illnesses, their lives could be made longer and more tolerable if we allowed the medical use of marijuana as treatment for them under medical supervision,” Gottfried says.
One of those New Yorkers is Wanda Hernandez. Facing ongoing health challenges due to her HIV status, Hernandez admits she sometimes runs the risk of lighting up illegally for relief.
“The Compassionate Care Act, as we're calling it, would actually help me with my nutrition,” Hernandez says. “For me, a lot of the medications I take are for pain, and they are very toxic.”
Doctors on both sides of the debate are split on whether to legalize.
Dr. Howard Grossman, assistant professor at Columbia University, supports the legalization of medical marijuana.
“I think that it is a very useful tool, a very useful drug,” he says. “I don’t think that we’ve managed to copy its effects with some of the synthetic things that are out there.”
Dr. Paul Rinaldi of St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center thinks otherwise.
“It’s hard to know about dosing and what we do know is we need to know about medication and have clinical trials,” he said, “With marijuana, the way it is administered, there’s really no way to truly know dosage."
Rinaldi adds that the drug also needs to be dispensed in a controlled clinical or pharmacy setting, like others approved by the FDA.
Even with his proposed ease-up on illegal possession laws, Cuomo has said in the past that legalization for medical reasons comes with “tremendous risks,” and it will take a lot of evidence to change his perspective.
Gottfried says he would like the debate to continue with a state Assembly vote before the close of the legislative session on June 21. If the state Senate chooses to accept his bill, the vote would not take place until early 2013.