North Country Assemblywoman Russell pleased with medical marijuana bill
Monday, June 23, 2014 - 9:01 am

A member of the state Assembly that represents part of St. Lawrence County is praising the new deal to allow medical marijuana in New York state.

The legislation includes provisions to ensure medical marijuana is reserved only for patients with serious conditions, a news release from Gov. Andrew Cuomo says. The bill expires in seven years.

“The goal for me has always been to reach a compromise that gives comfort to seriously ill patients while protecting law abiding citizens. The legislation passed today is a big step forward that provides comfort to those suffering from debilitating illnesses while implementing smart regulations to minimize risks to patients and caregivers," Assemblywoman Addie Russell says in a statement. "By limiting the form in which this medicine can be prescribed and tightly controlling its production and purchase, this legislation strikes the right balance between compassion and common sense.”

Russell represents the 116th Assembly district, the so-called “River District.” It includes all communities in St. Lawrence County along the St. Lawrence Seaway from Massena to Hammond. It also covers Canton and Potsdam.

"This legislation strikes the right balance," Cuomo said. "Medical marijuana has the capacity to do a lot of good for a lot of people who are in pain and suffering, and are in desperate need of a treatment that will provide some relief. At the same time, medical marijuana is a difficult issue because there are risks to public health and safety that have to be averted."

The legislation establishes a certification and registry process for physicians to administer the drug, according to Cuomo.

To be prescribed medical marijuana, a patient must receive a certification from a licensed practitioner registered with the state Department of Health and be qualified to treat the serious condition for which the patient is seeking treatment. The serious conditions for which medical marijuana can be prescribed are cancer, HIV/AIDS, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication on intractable spasticity, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathies and Huntington’s Disease. The DOH commissioner has the power to add ailments to the list, Cuomo said.

To ensure medical marijuana is in the hands of only individuals in need and their health care provider, registry identification cards will be issued by DOH to certified patients. The card would contain any recommendation or limitation on form or dosage imposed by the practitioner as well as other information. The Department would be able to suspend or revoke the card of a patient who willfully violates any provision of the new law.

Health insurers would not be required to provide coverage for medical marijuana, according to Cuomo.

Any form of medical marijuana not approved by the Department of Health is prohibited, and under no circumstances would smoking be allowed. DOH will issue guidelines regulating the allowed dosage amounts, and patients would not be allowed to possess an amount of medical marijuana in excess of a 30-day supply. Additionally, the patient would be required to keep the medical marijuana in the original packaging in which it was dispensed.

The legislation puts in place a process for patients to obtain, and manufacturers to dispense medical marijuana. Organizations seeking to manufacture or distribute medical marijuana must be registered with DOH and conform to a specific list of requirements. Registration would be valid for 2 years at a time, is renewable and subject to revocation. Registered organizations would be required to comply with strict security and record keeping requirements. The legislation allows for five registered organizations that can each operate up to four dispensaries statewide. Registration identifications and registrations for organization would be issued 18 months after the effective date of the bill, unless DOH certifies that the new program could not be implemented in accordance with public health and safety interests, Cuomo said.

The legislation makes it a class E felony, punishable by a maximum of 4 years in state prison, for a practitioner to certify a patient for medical marijuana if he or she knows or reasonably should know the person asking for it has no need. The legislation also makes it a misdemeanor for recipients to sell or trade the medical marijuana, or retain beyond what is needed for treatment the marijuana for their own use or the use of others, according to Cuomo.

The legislation puts in place a 7-percent excise tax on every sale of medical marijuana by a registered organization to a certified patient or designated caregiver. Proceeds from the excise tax would be allocated as follows:

• 22.5 percent to the county in which the medical marijuana was manufactured

• 22.5 percent to the county in which the medical marijuana was dispensed

• 5 percent to the State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services to be used for additional drug abuse prevention, counseling and treatment services

• 5 percent to the Division of Criminal Justice Services to support law enforcement measures related to this legislation.