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New York - What's Next With Medical Marijuana

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No sooner had Gov. Andrew Cuomo put down his pen after signing the bill to allow medical use of marijuana than Holly Anderson and her staff at the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester picked up their phones. "We started to get some phone calls from people in the community who wanted to know what's next, how long will it take," said the executive director of BCCR. They came not just from people with cancer, but individuals with fibromyalgia, HIV, multiple sclerosis and other illnesses where not only the condition but the side effects of treatment can cause unrelenting pain or discomfort.

Anderson said BCCR had planned to host a forum in its cozy suite on University Avenue about the Compassionate Care Act and figured now it needed a bigger place. The free panel discussion Medical Cannabis: Politics – Science – Truth is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday in the theater at Monroe Community College Building 4. As its name implies, the forum will explore political and scientific aspects of the debate and separate what's known about the medicinal properties of marijuana – or cannabis as Anderson prefers to call the drug — from its reputation.

"We believe an educated community is an empowered community," Anderson said. "What we hope people come away with is a good foundation on why this is such an import program, to dispel myths ... and put this botanical in the context of medicine instead of recreational use." Anderson said there would be a question-and-answer session, and she had heard from people in Syracuse and Buffalo who planned to attend.

Luke Peppone, a researcher with the UR Medicine Wilmot Cancer Institute, said animal and cell studies show benefits, and there are numerous anecdotal reports from individuals. "What we don't have is a well-designed human clinical trial," said Peppone, who will talk about how the research community views medical marijuana. Patient advocates are scheduled to take part, as are state Sens. Ted O'Brien, D-Irondequoit, and Joe Robach, R-Greece, both of whom voted for medical marijuana legislation.

"Part of our role as legislators is to make sure people understand how this law came into being when it might have been resisted initially," said O'Brien. He acknowledged his early hesitancy to support the bill but became convinced that cannabis could relieve suffering. Robach said cannabis had the potential to be more effective than some pharmaceuticals, and he said the New York law is different from others, particularly the Colorado and Washington statutes that allows recreational use.

A recent Quinnipiac University poll reported that while 44 percent of New Yorker voters support medicinal use, only 35 percent support personal use. If it were available, 62 percent of voters would not use it. Julie Netherland, deputy state director in New York for the Drug Policy Alliance, said the forum will help people understand just what New York is getting into – and not allowing. "There are a lot of people interested in this issue, find it compelling and need specifics about what the law says and where we are in implementation."

In a nutshell, the Compassionate Care Act "legalizes the possession, manufacture, use, delivery, transport or administration of medical marihuana by a designated caregiver for a certified medical use; prescribes procedures for such possession, acquisition, etc. ..." That "etc" part still is being sorted out. Netherland said many of those details relate to how the cannabis will be produced, regulated and distributed, and that the Department of Health has a lot of discretion. Cuomo signed the bill in July, but the legislation doesn't take effect for 18 months.

"What we're hearing is frustration that it's not moving more quickly," said Netherland, who is among the participants. Advocacy groups have called for a faster track for some conditions. After the deaths of three children from epileptic seizures, Cuomo in late July wrote to Department of Health Acting Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker urging ways to expedite the program.



News Moderator - The General @ 420 MAGAZINE ®
Source: Democratandchronicle.com
Author: Patti Singer
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Website: What's next with medical marijuana