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New York Medical Marijuana Bill Wins Again
19 June 2003 -

New York Medical Marijuana Bill Wins Again

Ways and Means Committee Passes A. 5796 24-8

ALBANY, NEW YORK -- New York's medical marijuana bill, A. 5796, scored its third big committee win of the legislative session yesterday, passing the Assembly Ways and Means Committee with a bipartisan vote of 24 to 8. The bill passed the Health Committee April 8 by 16 to 6 and the Codes Committee June 11 by 13 to 2.

The bill, which would allow seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana with their doctors' recommendations without fear of arrest or jail, has received solid support from New York's medical community. A statement signed by more than 1,100 New York doctors, declaring that "seriously ill people should not be subject to criminal sanctions for using marijuana if the patient's physician has told the patient that such use is likely to be beneficial," was released June 9 and published as an ad in the Legislative Gazette.

In addition, the bill has been endorsed by both the New York State Nurses Association and the New York State Association of County Health Officials. NYSACHO's statement reads in part:

Marijuana has proven to be effective in the treatment of people with HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, cancer, and those suffering from severe pain or nausea. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base, concluded that medical use of marijuana is less dangerous and less addictive than cocaine, morphine and methamphetamines, all of which are legally available.

"Today's vote represents amazing progress for a bill that is only in its first year," said Neal Levine, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C., which has supported lobbying efforts on behalf of A. 5796. "No one believed the bill would go this far the first year, and there is even an outside chance we could get a floor vote before the session ends. The groundswell of support from the medical community has made it clear that New Yorkers want to see cancer and AIDS patients protected, not living in fear of law enforcement."

Eight states -- Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington -- currently have laws protecting medical marijuana patients from arrest and jail. On May 22, Maryland's Republican Governor Robert Ehrlich signed into law a bill providing for greatly reduced marijuana possession penalties for seriously ill patients.

With 12,000 members nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. MPP works to minimize the harm associated with marijuana -- both the consumption of marijuana and the laws that are intended to prohibit such use. MPP believes that the greatest harm associated with marijuana is imprisonment. To this end, MPP focuses on removing criminal penalties for marijuana use, with a particular emphasis on making marijuana medically available to seriously ill people who have the approval of their doctors.

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