Medical marijuana's no longer a pipe dream in New York. According to a brand new Siena College poll, 57 percent of New Yorkers support legalization. That's sparked advocates to push harder for a new law, but some law enforcement officials believe that could open the door for abuse. Our Solomon Syed has more from the Capitol.
ALBANY, N.Y. -- With a new Siena College poll suggesting growing support for the legalization of medical marijuana, advocates wasted no time calling a news conference Wednesday to tout the merits of a bill they say would be the most restrictive legalization measure in the country.
"Cannabis is especially helpful for my neck pain," said Bruce Dunn, an advocate still dealing with the affects of a severe car accident from 23 years ago. "It allows the damaged muscles to relax and it hurts me less."
Dunn is one of hundreds of New Yorkers suffering from debilitating health issues, who, as of now, illegally treat their pain with medical marijuana.
"Because of my HIV medication, I have constant battles of nausea, but when I use marijuana, it helps me settle my stomach and I feel comfortable," said Wanda Hernandez, who was diagnosed with the disease in 1995.
Advocates across the state now hope to cut through the smoke of illegal medical marijuana use by simply making it legal. The new, more restrictive legalization bill passed in the Assembly Health Committee Tuesday.
"Lives could be made more livable and in longer in many cases if we allow them to be treated under medical supervision," said Assemblyman Richard N. Gottfried.
Under the new law, patients could only get medical marijuana prescriptions from licensed health care providers and they'd also have to register with the state Department of Health. Once approved, they could only buy in 2.5 ounce increments from a specially regulated hospital or pharmacy.
Still, some law enforcement officials aren't sold on the safeguards.
"I think it presents a lot of issues," said Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple. "Whenever you have a cash crop and times are tough, people go for ulterior ways of making money. I feel for the people who can help them, I hope it works out for them, but there are a lot of avenues for abuse with it."
However, advocates say they'll be the ones who continue to feel the pain.
"I know what it's like to stand by and watch those that you love suffer," said Eileen Knieczny, a nurse who treats cancer patients. "Medical cannabis needs to be an option for doctors to recommend to their patients."
The bill now moves to the full Assembly, where it's expected to pass. However, right now, support is tepid in the Senate, which means it will likely get snuffed out.