Syracuse, N.Y. — Democratic lawmakers plan to hold public hearings in Buffalo and Mineola next month on legalizing marijuana for treating medical conditions.
The hearings are part of an ongoing push by certain lawmakers in Albany to sanction marijuana cultivation, sales and use for certain diagnoses like cancer and other debilitating or life-threatening diseases. Twenty states and the District of Columbia have established some form of legalization for medical marijuana.
In New York, the Democratically-controlled state Assembly has passed a version of the legalization in past years. The Senate, run mostly by more conservative members in recent years, has yet to take up the issue for a vote.
Those dynamics have shifted ever-so-slightly, especially now that Senate Republicans share control of the upper house with a small group of independent Democrats. One of those Democrats, Sen. Diane Savino, of Staten Island, is a key supporter of legalizing marijuana for medical use.
But Gov. Andrew Cuomo, also a Democrat and the former top law enforcement official for the state, has not embraced legalization of marijuana for health issues. He has left the door open for talks.
A bill proposed by Savino and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan would regulate the dispensing and sales of marijuana.
Under the proposal, practitioners licensed to prescribe controlled substances could certify patient need for marijuana. Then those certified patients would register with the state’s Department of Health. Both the certification process and dispensing of medical marijuana would be a part of a newly enacted statewide prescription monitoring system, meant to crackdown on abuse of controlled substances.
The Savino/Gottfried bill would empower the Health Department to license and regulate “registered organizations” to produce and dispense medical marijuana for certified patients. These organizations could be hospitals, pharmacies, or other for-profit businesses or not-for-profit corporations; they would also be required to comply with detailed “seed to sale” security controls and regulations. A clinical advisory committee made up predominately of health care professionals would advise the Health Commissioner on clinical matters.
The hearings are sponsored by the New York State Assembly. They are scheduled for 10 a.m., Dec. 5, Buffalo City Hall; and 10 a.m., Dec. 18, Nassau County Legislative Chambers.
People testifying at the hearing will be by invitation only. If you wish to be invited to testify in person, please email your request to Elizabeth Hamlin-Berninger, firstname.lastname@example.org before Dec. 2. Written testimony may be submitted by anyone.
New York’s tough gun law, known as the SAFE Act, was pushed through last January by Governor Andrew Cuomo, winning support from the Democratic Assembly and the Republican-controlled Senate.
Over the last six months, however, political opposition to the law has grown, especially in upstate counties where gun ownership is popular. A growing number of law enforcement officials, especially county sheriffs, now say they’re deeply troubled by the law, which bans assault rifles and large ammunition clips. Some officers say they won’t actively enforce the SAFE Act.