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NY becomes 23rd state to allow medical marijuana

Updated: 07/08/2014 9:57 AM
Created: 07/07/2014 11:08 AM WNYT.com
By: Kumi Tucker

LATHAM - Some patients of Dr. Keith Edwards and staff at the Multiple Sclerosis Center of Northeastern New York in Latham are happy that medical marijuana is now legal in New York State.

"I feel that it's an absolute need.  I will be happy if my patients are happy," said Jessica Harrigan, RN.

Some patients are already getting marijuana on their own. But supporters of the legislation just signed by Gov. Cuomo say the new law will allow everyone who needs it to benefit.

"Not everyone knows people," said Joseph Marchitto of Burnt Hills.  "A lot of people with MS, they obviously don't know where to get it.  I believe they absolutely should have something else to give them comfort."

"For me, a lot of it is appetite and just the feeling of well-being," said Allan Doucette of Bennington.  "When you're sick with MS you feel bad all the time.  And it's not a bad thing to feel good.  And the marijuana does help you feel good inside because it's tough dealing with something that's taking things away from you every day."

Doucette lives in Vermont, where there is already a medical marijuana law in place.

In New York, there will be a certification and registry process for doctors.

Five licensed manufacturers will each be able to open four dispensaries throughout the state.

The drug must be ingested or administered through a vaporizer or oil base.  Patients will not be able to smoke it. 

"The studies done in the United Kingdom and in Canada are using the liquid form which is what New York State will be using so that is a pure medical use, so that's better than smoking because you don't know what you're getting off the street, what other drugs may be laced in the marijuana," said Edwards.

Medical marijuana will not be available right away.  The state now has 18 months to get the program running.

"If you take two or three puffs of it and your whole body just feels so good," said Tammy Mischitelli of Schenectady.  "And you feel so much better and it's not like when recreational people use it to get high, it's just a nice feeling to not have your arm spazzing or your leg spazzing and the pain goes away."

Patients say it only takes a little bit of marijuana to make them feel a lot better.

New York is the 23rd state to make medical marijuana legal.  Its program is one of the most restrictive in the country.

Health insurers will not be required to cover medical marijuana.  There will be a seven percent tax.

Medical marijuana can be prescribed for cancer, HIV or AIDS, Lou Gehrig's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal-cord injuries, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathies, and Huntington's disease.  The state health commissioner can add other serious conditions to that list.

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