Assemblyman John Ceretto, R-C-I-Lewiston, voted Tuesday to give patients suffering from debilitating and terminal illnesses such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy access to medical marijuana to treat their symptoms. This option is for patients who react negatively to other available treatments. Ceretto said his overwhelming concern in casting this vote was patients for whom medical marijuana could help relieve their pain and give them a better quality of life.
"Having friends and family members who suffered with painful, terminal illnesses, I wish they could have had treatment available to them to relieve their pain," Ceretto said. "Allowing medical marijuana would give patients today and in the future this option to help improve their quality of life in their last days."
Marijuana acts as both a pain reliever and increases appetite, which is beneficial to cancer patients going through chemotherapy who lose their appetite. It also has the ability to suppress seizures. In one case documented by NBC, a patient who had more than 300 seizures a week is now largely seizure-free because of medical marijuana.
The type of marijuana used in this treatment does not get people high; only the oils need to be extracted to treat the seizures, meaning the marijuana is not smoked.
Ceretto said allowing the medicinal use of marijuana is not the same thing as full legalization. The proposed system would be very tightly controlled by the New York State Department of Health. The DOH would license and regulate qualified physicians to prescribe medical marijuana only to patients who are terminally ill or have a severely debilitating disease. The patients would then have to register with the DOH, adding another layer of supervision to ensure prescriptions for medical marijuana are given only to patients who need it to relieve their suffering.
"Let me be clear: Medical marijuana is only for patients who actually need it," Ceretto said. "This legislation does not allow any person to possess, distribute, or use marijuana. Recreational use is illegal under this bill.
"There are currently many substances, such as morphine and valium, which are allowed for medical use, but are strictly illegal for recreational use. All this legislation does is classify medical marijuana in a similar way."
The bill, numbered A6357-B, passed the Assembly, and now heads to the State Senate for approval.