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The Steuben Courier Advocate
  • O'Mara voices support for medical marijuana bill

  • State Sen. Tom O'Mara, R-Big Flats, announced Tuesday he will push for passage of the proposed medical marijuana bill in the state Senate, the Compassionate Care Act.
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  • ALBANY | State Sen. Tom O’Mara, R-Big Flats, announced Tuesday he will push for passage of the proposed medical marijuana bill in the state Senate, the Compassionate Care Act.
    Versions of the bill have frequently passed the Assembly in recent years, but the Republican-controlled Senate has blocked it.
    O’Mara becomes the fourth Republican senator to voice support for it, following three others from the Buffalo and Rochester areas.
    The bill’s primary sponsor in the Senate, Sen. Diane Savino, is a member of the Independent Democratic Conference that now shares power with Republicans in the Senate, and the IDC is supportive.
    O’Mara released the following statement Tuesday:
    “This legislation allows for safe, limited access to medical marijuana, for people who suffer from serious, debilitating diseases. I will continue to work to improve the bill to make sure we maintain a balance between access and compassion for patients, and maintaining control to eliminate the potential black market.
    “Comprehensive medical research and the ever-growing testimony from medical professionals, health care experts, patients and families show that the use of medical marijuana can help ease the pain and suffering of the seriously ill. I have carefully considered the facts, and after meeting with patients and their families I have come to the conclusion it’s time for New York to offer a highly restrictive, tightly regulated network to provide patients access to treatment that will improve their quality of life.”
    O’Mara also released statements of support Tuesday from Gary Mervis, chairman and founder of Camp Good Days, which provides programs for children with cancer; and Andi Gladstone, executive director of the New York State Breast Cancer Network.
    “We’ve reached the point in our medical advancement where we can administer this treatment safely and sensitively and with no unintended consequences whatsoever for society at large. It’s a medical treatment that’s effective,” Mervis said.
    Added Gladstone:
    “By listening to the breast cancer community and others, Senator O’Mara has separated fact from myth, and he has brought us one step closer to passage of the Compassionate Care Act which will allow safe and legal relief to New Yorkers living each day with difficult illnesses and painful treatments.”
    The Compassionate Care Act is a further-reaching medical marijuana plan than the one proposed in January by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, under which he would use an executive action to allow up to 20 hospitals in New York to prescribe marijuana.
    It remains to be seen whether Cuomo would sign the Compassionate Care Act if it passed through the Legislature.
    According to the bill summary, the Compassionate Care Act would allow marijuana for patients with debilitating or life-threatening conditions that can be eased by the drug. They would need to be certified by a physician, physician’s assistant or registered nurse, and register with the state Department of Health.
    Page 2 of 2 - The DOH would also license and regulate growers and dispensaries, which could be hospitals, for-profit businesses or non-profits.
    The process of certifying and dispensing marijuana would be included in the I-STOP system enacted in 2012 to crack down on prescription pill abuse by preventing “doctor shopping.”
    There would be an excise tax on growers and dispensaries, to be split between the state, counties, and the local municipalities, according to the bill summary.

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