July 5th, 2014 Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Compassionate Care Act of 2014 and many have viewed it as a step in the right direction, but there have been problems. The process is slow and some who are in dire need of medical marijuana have been left to wait. Governor Cuomo signed a bill on November 11th that would allow an expedited pathway for those “for whom delay in the patient’s certified medical use of marihuana poses a serious risk to the patient’s life or health,” as stated in the governor’s own words.
Details of 2014’s Compassionate Care Act
The 2014 CCA allows citizens of New York to register for medical marijuana. New York State website summarized the bill and listed the types of cannabinoids allowable by the bill on the New York State website: “The Approved forms include liquid or oil preparations for metered oromucosal (administered orally) or sublingual (under the tongue) administration or administration per tube, metered liquid or oil preparations for vaporization, and capsules for oral administration. The Compassionate Care Act expressly provides that a certified medical use of marijuana does not include smoking.” The full original bill is available on the New York State Assembly website. This bill laid the groundwork for the new law and it has made the drug accessible to New York residents despite its drawbacks.
The FDA’s Stance on Medicinal Marijuana
It is important to note that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not recognized or approved of the marijuana plant as medicine. A growing number of states have legalized medical marijuana in some form. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse the interest in medical marijuana has focused on two cannabinoids, chemicals related to delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC and Cannabidiol (CBD) have been used to help with autoimmune disorders (such as HIV/AIDS and Multiple Sclerosis), inflammation, seizures, pain, and mental disorders. The FDA has not recognized marijuana as medicine because there has not been a wide enough study of its effects and benefits. It does appear that THC and CBD both help with some maladies in animal tests.
Expediting the Compassionate Care Act
The 2014 CCA allowed five dispensaries to produce and sell medical marijuana under an 18-month timetable. The new bill would allow patients with the most need to get access quicker in cases where a week or a month may be life threatening to wait. The new law would require the health department to register more companies to produce the drug as quickly as possible and would waive some of the restrictions in the original bill though Governor Cuomo did not elaborate what restrictions would be lifted or waived.
Opponents of the new bill have expressed concern over the new measure and want to ensure that the new bill adheres to Federal guidelines. Senator Diane Savino (D-Kings, Richmond) suggested colleagues vote no on the bill since it could face litigation and slow the progress of the original 2014 CCA. Overall the benefits to the public seem to outweigh the risks for Governor Cuomo and the citizens who need medical marijuana as a matter of life or death will be afforded that comfort.