Pubdate: Thu, 12 Jan 2017
Source: Rochester Democrat and Chronicle (NY)
Copyright: 2017 Rochester Democrat and Chronicle


A bill that would expedite patients' access to medical marijuana has been
sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's desk.

Cuomo will have until Nov. 11 to either sign or veto the bill, which the
state Legislature passed in late June.

The Medical Marijuana Expedited Access bill comes after a state
medical-marijuana program was passed in 2014 and is set to be up and
running by January. It allows for medical marijuana in non-smokeable forms
for patients suffering from severe illnesses, particularly children is
chronic epilepsy.

But medical marijuana supporters have questioned whether the deadline
would be met and said the bill would allow sick patients to more quickly
get access to medical marijuana.

Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan, who sponsored the bill, said
the lack of access could put many seriously ill patients at risk and their
conditions may worsen.

"Many of these patients are young children with severe forms of epilepsy
who have been successfully treated with particular forms of medical
marijuana in other states," he said in a statement.

Gottfried said the legislation could provide tools to the Health
Department and ill patients if problems during the medical marijuana
production and distribution process. The bill gives the state Department
of Health the flexibility to modify requirements of the 2014 medicinal
marijuana law and regulations to speed up the process.

Still, Cuomo's office has been skeptical of the bill, saying that the
medical-marijuana program is moving ahead and the legislation could hurt
the state's program.

In a statement in May, Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi said the state is
moving as "expeditiously as possible under current federal guidelines" to
allow for medical marijuana in forms such as oils and pills to patients.

"The last thing that anyone would want is legal complications to arise
from importing marijuana products over state lines without federal
approval, or for unnecessary delays with the implementation of the current
program to come as a result of layering a separate process on top of it,"
Azzopardi said.
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