Medical marijuana moving forward in NY

Efforts are progressing to legalize medical marijuana in New York state.

A number of hospitals have shown interest in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to allow prescribing the drug to those with serious diseases, discussed in his State of the State address in January.

Since then, Cuomo has been working to gain federal authorization to allow New York to become the 21st state to utilize marijuana for patients with cancer, glaucoma and other serious illnesses.

“It’d be consistent with federal law, and would involve the usual research protocols that you hope would apply in a situation where a drug has not been approved by the Federal Drug Administration,” said Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Jamestown. “I think it’s a reasonable approach.”

Up to 20 hospitals would be able to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness and feasibility of a medical marijuana system, Cuomo said.

As of last week, 10 hospitals had shown interest, according to the Health Department. According to an article in Buffalo Business First, Roswell Park Cancer Institute hopes to be one of them.

The federal government allows marijuana to be used as part of research programs to evaluate its effectiveness. Dosages and strength would be controlled, and utilization would be monitored with effectiveness carefully documented by New York research hospitals.

“The governor’s proposal strikes a balance between complying with federal law and expanding the availability of medical marijuana without just opening the flood gates for unmonitored and unstudied use,” Goodell said.

Additionally, a bill in the Assembly has been proposed. A similar bill passed last year with substantial opposition, but one has not yet been presented for a vote this year, Goodell said.

Several aspects of the bill have prevented its success in the Senate, such as its requirement that any New York farmer growing medical marijuana be unionized.

Furthermore, the bill would make it illegal for an employer to make a hiring decision based on the use of medical marijuana, and creates problems for those employers with zero-tolerance policies.

The bill allows for designated “runners,” who have the role of picking up and delivering medical marijuana for others. Up to three-fourths of a pound could be transported at any given time, and the position would not require a criminal background check for the runner or any restriction on how often the runner could refill a supplier’s need.

Although Goodell offered his support for the governor’s proposal, he has concerns about the Assembly bill, including the runners.

“That’s a wide open invitation for criminal activity,” Goodell said. “The Assembly proposal violates current federal laws, which creates constitutional issues. I support efforts to make helpful drugs available, but at the same time, we need to be very careful to comply with federal law and make sure the right people are getting the right amount for the right conditions.”

According to Buffalo Bus-iness First’s sister publication Albany Business Re-view, other hospitals across the state interested in Cuomo’s program include: Albany Medical Center; University of Rochester Hos-pital; White Plains Hospital; Montefiore Medical Center; North Shore LIJ Health System; Mt. Sinai Hospital; Stony Brook University Hospital; Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital; and New York City Health and Hospitals Corp.