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NY May Create Emergency MMJ Access for Terminal Patients

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NY May Create Emergency MMJ Access for Terminal Patients

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New York’s medical marijuana program, known as the Compassionate Care Act (CCA) is one of the strictest in nation, despite its uplifting name. It is so strict that it is nearly impossible for patients to obtain any medical marijuana for treatment, even if they do qualify for it when it goes into effect in January 2016.

But some patients who are currently suffering from terminal or life-threatening illnesses are worried that they may not live long enough to see the new program get passed at all, snuffing out any bit of hope they had at receiving some form of relief from their respective diseases.

But according to a new press release from the Drug Policy Alliance, a new bipartisan House bill has been introduced to the state legislature that could make it easier for those who are terminally ill to receive their medical marijuana early.

Assembly bill A.7060, introduced by Democratic Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried and Republican Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb, would create an emergency expedited medical marijuana program for terminally ill patients who are believed to not live until next January. The emergency program would essentially begin providing medical marijuana to those who qualified as quickly as possible.

“This bill would create emergency access to medical marijuana for patients with the most urgent needs – including children suffering from severe epilepsy,” said Rep. Gottfried, who is also a sponsor of the bill. “Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb and I introducing this bill shows the broad, bipartisan support for emergency access. It is good and compassionate public health policy. If ever there was a basis for emergency action, the suffering of these children is it.”

But this new program doesn’t seem to be as easy to bring into being as expected. This bill is being signed nearly a year after Governor Cuomo signed the original medical marijuana bill into law last June. Gov. Cuomo even urged the Health Commissioner to implement the program as quickly as possible, as he believed that those who were suffering in the state could find relief through the program.

But to date, not a single patient in the state of New York has received any medical marijuana and many people have died since who may have benefitted from its use. This is all due to the bureaucratic and legalistic roadblocks that Cuomo’s Administration had set up as part of the original signing of the law. On top of all of this, a similar bill that was introduced last year was denied by federal officials.

“The Governor announced in January 2014 that he was reactivating the 1980 Olivieri medical marijuana ‘research’ program, and 15 months later nothing has come of it,” commented Gottfried.  “There are New Yorkers suffering right now whose lives could be made better by access to medical marijuana.  If the Department of Health does not believe it can have the 2014 Compassionate Care Act system fully up and running before 2016, the least it can do is offer emergency relief to the patients who need it most.”

The Compassionate Care Act currently allows patients suffering from cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, HIV, Parkinson’s disease and a number of other life-threatening illnesses. And though Cuomo claims he wants to help these people as quickly as possible, that state still needs to identify a source for the medical marijuana to be brought into the state to fuel the program.

This spells even worse news for the emergency program, as trying to find a source could delay the implementation of the emergency program by a few months at the least. But a few options have arisen throughout the legislature to solve the issue. Some have suggested to authorize a supplier and have them begin to grow the necessary amount of marijuana plants early, but this could take months and cause even more bureaucratic tapes to be drawn up about the amount that could be grown.

Others have suggested importing the marijuana from other states’ that have already implemented a medical marijuana program, or even to use marijuana that has been seized by law enforcement officials during raids or drug busts. However, these could pose issues about the quality of the product or how it could affect the patients using it.

Nonetheless, the bipartisan group is working hard to try to get these patients the medication they need to relieve at least some of their suffering. If the bill passes, the lawmakers would quickly begin implementing the emergency program for qualified patients, hopefully finding a reliable source of quality medical marijuana as quickly as possible.

What do you think of New York’s medical program? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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