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NYS Senate votes to pass medical marijuana legislation
ALBANY--The New York State Senate has passed a bill legalizing medical marijuana in New York State. With a vote of 49-10, the bill passed around 2:45pm on Friday, the chamber erupted in applause from advocates of medical marijuana who have been lobbying lawmakers all week to vote on the bill.
The measure covers about a dozen conditions including cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, HIV and AIDS. Medical marijuana would be available to patients through vapor, pills or oil, but could not be smoked. Trained doctors, registered with the state could prescribe the drug, and the Department of Health would run the program. The Health Department would have 18-months to setup the program and define the rules and regulations. Marijuana will be taxed at a rate of 6% and likely will not be covered by insurance plans. The bill also allows the Governor to discontinue the program at any time if the NYS Health Department or NYS Police recommend it. The bill also sunsets after 7 years if it's not renewed.
As lawmakers argued both for and against it for more than three hours on Friday, those who stand to be impacted the most by their decision were looking on, nervous at first and then elated. After a roller-coaster week, the bill they'd been advocating for, looked a little different in the end but it passed. "I'm speechless, we are so relieved, I can't wait for her to be able to get the medication she needs, she's been waiting forever, we're just so excited," said Melissa Hilt of East Greenbush outside the Chamber just a few minutes after the vote. Her 7-year old daughter Haley has a genetic mutation that causes severe epilepsy. Right now, Haley has multiple seizures a day and Melissa believes medical marijuana can cut down on the number of them, "the medications that Haley is receiving right now are so much more dangerous, they cause liver failure, heart murmurs and broken bones, so I'll take this any day," she says.
Other families from across the state who were in the chamber for the vote, agree, "it's a new hope, I get to maybe know my daughter, maybe a little piece of her will come out, maybe she'll say mom, even if it just helps reduce the seizures, we're doing the right thing here," says Kathy Annable of Marcellus, NY.
The Assembly passed the bill in the early morning hours on Friday. Governor Cuomo still needs to sign the bill.
You can read the full bill here: http://open.nysenate.gov/legislation/bill/S7923-2013