HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Medical Marijuana Measure Advances
Pubdate: Wed, 25 Feb 2004
Source: Times Union (Albany, NY)
Copyright: 2004 Capital Newspapers Division of The Hearst Corporation
Author: Erin Duggan, Capitol bureau
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


Albany - Legislation Clears Assembly Panel With Bipartisan Support

A bill legalizing the medical use of marijuana is gaining momentum in
the state Assembly, with bipartisan sponsorship and a successful vote
Tuesday in the Assembly Health Committee.	

The bill, which would allow primarily terminally ill patients to be
prescribed marijuana for nausea, pain and other symptoms, has 41
Assembly sponsors, including seven Republicans.

"If you have ever seen anyone on their deathbed, dying in agony,
screaming in pain every day as I had with my father who had cancer ...
the risks of smoking marijuana are outweighed by the therapeutic
benefits," said Assemblyman Robert Prentiss, a conservative Republican
from Colonie.

The bill has broad support from the medical community, with
endorsements from medical societies in New York, Westchester, Putnam,
Orange, Rockland and Dutchess counties. It is also supported by the
state Health Department's AIDS Advisory Council, the New York State
Association of County Health Officials, the New York State Nurses
Association, the Hospice and Palliative Care Association of New York
State, Statewide Senior Action Council, Gay Men's Health Crisis and
the New York AIDS Coalition.

Nine states have passed medical marijuana laws.

Gov. George Pataki remains opposed to the idea.

"The Health Department tells us, and many health experts agree, that
there are already approved legal medications in place that treat
symptoms like nausea and help deal with pain management," said Pataki
spokesman Andrew Rush. Rush did not identify the health experts.

At Tuesday's Assembly health committee meeting, other opponents made a
variety of arguments against the bill, ranging from the possibility of
medically prescribed marijuana getting into the hands of nonpatients
to concerns that smoking marijuana could violate the state's smoking
ban if a caregiver had to breathe second-hand smoke.

The bill has been amended since it was introduced last year to include
additional protections against abuse. It passed the health committee,
led by Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan, by a vote of 18-6. It now must
go through the Assembly Codes committee, then Ways and Means before
coming up for a full house vote.

Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick, said his chamber
will also consider the bill, which has a Democratic sponsor. "We're
going to look at that," he said Tuesday. "We're very aware that there
are addictive substances that have a medical value."
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