ALBANY — The New York Assembly passed a bill today that would protect New Yorkers with life threatening or debilitating conditions from arrest for using medical marijuana when their doctors believe it would be the best treatment option, 79-48.
The bill is similar to the medical marijuana bill the Assembly passed last year. The version passed today was modified to address concerns voiced by members of the Senate, who have until June 23 to pass the bill before the legislature recesses.
"Every day that goes by without this sensible, compassionate law is a day in which our most vulnerable citizens must choose between suffering debilitating pain or risking arrest in order to find relief," said bill sponsor and Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried. "These patients don't have the luxury of waiting another year for their elected representatives to act – they need the Senate to stand up for them now."
Dr. Kevin Smith, a Saugerties psychiatrist who has been recognized by the state legislature for his work with police forensics, said the bill would change the lives of people like him who have no better pain relief options.
"Unless you or a loved one has experienced it, it's difficult to understand the frustration and helplessness that comes from knowing that relief is readily available but forbidden by law," said Smith, who suffers from a painful genetic defect that causes his immune system to attack his spine and hips as though they were foreign bodies; the debilitating pain forced him to quit practicing medicine. "Medical marijuana can give me my life back, but right now I am barred by law from using it. This is crazy."
Glenn Amandola, a medically retired New York City police officer from Northport who suffers from chronic pain and a seizure disorder after being injured on the job in 1987, said it makes no sense for the law to prevent him from using medical marijuana when his doctor says it could help.
"As an officer with the New York City Police Department, I swore to uphold state law, and I'll never break that oath," he said. "The flip side to that, however, is that our lawmakers owe it to people like me who live in constant pain to make sure the law doesn't penalize us for seeking relief. I should have the right to decide for myself – with my doctor – what my best treatment options are."