Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and Legislative Leaders today 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 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 D. Klein 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."
Speaker Sheldon Silver said, On behalf of the members of the Assembly Majority and the chair of the Health Committee Dick Gottfried, let me say how pleased and relieved we are that this agreement has been reached. There are New Yorkers all across our state, men, women and children, with severely debilitating illnesses or life-threatening conditions, whose only source of relief is safe and effective treatment with medical marijuana. I would like to commend Governor Cuomo and our counterparts in the Senate for working in concert to reach a consensus that is so important to suffering New Yorkers and their families.
Senator Diane Savino said, Today marks an historic victory for thousands of New Yorkers who will no longer have to suffer needlessly during their courageous medical battles. Under this bill, New Yorkers will now have the same access to life-changing treatment options that others around the country have had. Today we celebrate this victory with the countless patients, families, advocates, health care professionals and physicians who have all fought passionately for the safe and reliable use of medical marijuana as part of a comprehensive course of treatment for disease and illness.
Assembly Member Richard Gottfried said, This is a tremendous victory for patients. If the patient and physician agree that severe debilitating or life-threatening conditions should be treated with medical marijuana, it is cruel for government to stand in the way. Weve incorporated as many of the governors suggestions as possible, and this comprehensive, tightly regulated legislation will bring relief to thousands of New Yorkers.
Medical Marijuana Reserved for Patients with Serious Conditions:
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 Gehrigs Disease), Parkinsons Disease, multiple sclerosis, damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication on intractable spasticity, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathies, Huntingtons 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.
Administering Medical Marijuana Safely:
Any form of medical marijuana not approved by the Department of Health is prohibited, and under no circumstances would smoking be allowed. DOH will issue guidelines regulating the allowed dosage amounts, and patients would not be allowed to possess an amount of medical marijuana in excess of a 30 day supply. Additionally, the patient would be required to keep the medical marijuana in the original packaging in which it was dispensed.
The legislation puts in place a process for patients to obtain, and manufacturers to dispense medical marijuana. Organizations seeking to manufacture or distribute medical marijuana must be registered with DOH and conform to a specific list of requirements. Registration would be valid for two years at a time, renewable, and subject to revocation. Registered organizations would be required to comply with strict security and record keeping requirements. The legislation allows for five registered organizations that can each operate up to four dispensaries statewide. Registration identifications and registrations for organization would be issued 18 months after the effective date of the bill, unless DOH certifies that the new program could not be implemented in accordance with public health and safety interests.
Registered organizations would be able to dispense medical marijuana to individuals who present a registry identification card. The organization would not be able to dispense an amount greater than a thirty day supply to a patient. The medical marijuana would be dispensed in a sealed and properly labeled package with a safety insert included. All manufacturing and dispensing of medical marijuana by registered organizations would take place in New York and registered organizations would contract with an independent laboratory to test the medical marijuana.
Tough Penalties for Individuals and Physicians Who Abuse Medical Marijuana Program
The legislation makes it a Class E felony for a practitioner to certify an individual as eligible to facilitate the possession of medical marijuana if he or she knows or reasonably should know the person who is asking for it has no need for it. The legislation also makes it a misdemeanor for recipients of medical marijuana to sell or trade the medical marijuana, or retain beyond what is needed for treatment the marijuana for their own use or the use of others.
Distribution of Tax Revenue from Medical Marijuana
The legislation puts in place a 7 percent excise tax on every sale of medical marijuana by a registered organization to a certified patient or designated caregiver. Proceeds from the excise tax would be allocated as follows: 22.5% to the county in New York state in which the medical marijuana was manufactured; 22.5% to the county in New York state in which the medical marijuana was dispensed; 5% to the State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services to be used for additional drug abuse prevention, counseling and treatment services; and 5% to the Division of Criminal Justice Services to support law enforcement measures related to this legislation.
The legislation grants DOH the authority to issue any necessary regulations to implement the state's medical marijuana program, as well as set a price. The Governor would also be allowed to suspend or terminate any provisions of the program based on the recommendations of the Commissioner or Superintendent.
The bill would take effect immediately and sunset in seven years.