After years of debate, both houses of the Legislature are on the brink of legalizing medical marijuana in New York. The lead sponsor of the Assembly's bill is Manhattan Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, who said, "There are thousands of New Yorkers who suffer from serious medical conditions who could have a better quality and longer life."
Under the measure, to acquire marijuana a person would have to have a debilitating or life-threatening illness and would need a doctor's note certifying that marijuana would be beneficial. Under the bill, people with multiple sclerosis, cancer, AIDS, epilepsy or neuro-spinal damage, among other conditions, could grow marijuana indoors with a doctor's recommendation and a state permit.
Those individuals would be limited to possessing no more than 2Â½ ounces of cultivated pot or 12 growing plants.
The patients would also need to get a registration card from the state Health Department.
It has been seen that people like Mark Braunstein, a paraplegic needs marijuana every three days or so to control the pain and spasms in his feet that would otherwise immobilize him. They grow it illegally or procure it through the black market for a very high price which is financially crippling. And because marijuana is an illegal substance, people who sell pot to such patients could still face criminal charges.
On June 1, the Connecticut State Senate, following the House, passed a bill that allows people with certain "debilitating" medical conditions to grow as many as four marijuana plants for "palliative use" with the recommendation of a doctor and registration with the State Department of Consumer Protection. If the bill is passed then Connecticut becomes the 13 state to allow marijuana for medical purposes.
Groups advocating for legislation, citing studies that pot can relieve suffering from a variety of diseases.
Various people, including Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau and Montel Williams, have supported the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes for the past few years, but NY State backed away from passing a law when the Supreme Court allowed the prosecution of medical marijuana in 2005. The Sun points out that now, with a medical marijuana bill on the Connecticut governor's desk, momentum has been growing for states to determine medical marijuana legislation. However, it's unclear whether Governor Spitzer will sign any bills - he surprised many people last year when he voiced opposition to medical marijuana.
The Connecticut General Assembly passed a bill in 1981 that authorized doctors to write prescriptions for marijuana if their patients had glaucoma or were undergoing chemotherapy, but it was largely toothless because no pharmacies carry the drug.
Opponents are concerned that allowing use of the drug for medical use could send mixed messages to children.