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Medical Marijuana debate brings local politicians into the mix

By JOLEEN FERRIS

ALBANY, N.Y. (WKTV) - The NYS Assembly was up late debating the medical use of marijuana, finally voting on and approving the measure at 3:30am.  The Senate voted early Friday afternoon.  Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi voted for the Compassionate Care Act. 
     
"I think just hearing from the advocates, the families who've expressed a need for this.   It's going to be very strict, this law, it's going to be under strict doctor supervision. You have to have a debilitating or life-threatening injury or terminal  illness," says Brindisi
     
It will be 18 months before marijuana is available for medical use in New York State. The State Department of Health is overseeing the program and its roll-out. There will be up to five growers across the state, each of which can have up to four dispensaries, for a total of 20 dispensaries across the state. Local health departments are waiting for word on the extent of, if any, involvement on their part. 
     
Hospice & Palliative Care supports the measure and their leaders have written letters to Albany voicing that support.  The families they serve frequently ask about the availability of marijuana for medical use. 
   
"And I think that in our patients, all of those things are issues; pain is an issue, anxiety is an issue, appetite is an issue and there will be people that this could be very effective for that maybe other things that we've used in the past have not been that effective," says Hospice and Palliative Care CEO Ann Tonzi in New Hartford. 
     
Right now, a finite list of ailments would qualify the sufferer for medical use of marijuana: cancer, HIV, Parkinson's Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Neuropathy, Epilepsy, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Huntington's Disease and damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord. But that, and other aspects of the current law, could change.
    
"I think things can always be changed and I think it's the point of this law being very limited to test it out, see how it goes in the state and if it needs to be expanded I think that's always a possibility," says Brindisi.
   
Senator Joe Griffo says he could not, in good conscience, support the measure.
  
"I feel great sympathy for those who experience pain and suffering as the result of a serious illness.  But I continue to believe that the negative consequences of legalization-however unintended-outweigh the benefits. I also believe this legislation leaves several open questions," says Griffo.
   

With Assembly and Senate passage secured, the measure awaits the governor's anticipated signature in order to become law. 

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