By CRAIG M. BURRIDGE on TimesUnion.com (First published June 29, 2010)
The Pharmacists Society of the State of New York has become the latest professional health organization to endorse the medical marijuana bill under consideration in Albany.
As medical professionals who believe in palliative care, responsible oversight, and — most important — relieving the suffering of ill patients whenever possible, we strongly support this legislation. It will establish a controlled and orderly system, based on established medical practice, for providing seriously ill patients with access to a medicine that has been demonstrated to relieve intractable pain and suffering.
Since 1996, 14 other states and Washington, D.C., have passed laws to allow doctors to recommend marijuana to qualified patients suffering from ailments such as AIDS, cancer and multiple sclerosis. New York’s bill is designed to include the best practices from those states, while at the same time learning from their mistakes.
Compared to other state laws, New York’s bill would create a much stricter patient eligibility criteria, and more tightly regulate where the drug can be purchased.
A primary reason why pharmacists support this bill is the active oversight role it grants to the Department of Health. Patients would not be able to grow their own medicine, but rather gain access through a network of licensed pharmacies and nonprofit dispensaries approved and regulated by the Department of Health.
The bill’s inclusion of pharmacists — New York would become the only state to do so — would for the first time place medical marijuana in the mainstream medical system. Pharmacists are ideally suited to dispense medical marijuana because they have secure facilities and are experienced in the handling of dangerous narcotics. And because pharmacists are aware of all the drugs their patients are taking, they can guard against potentially dangerous drug interactions that could easily occur in other delivery systems.
New York’s proposed bill would create the most responsible, professionally managed, and tightly regulated medical marijuana delivery system in the nation.
But perhaps the most compelling reason why New York should enact this bill is the thousands of New Yorkers living with severe and debilitating illnesses that could benefit from it.
A wealth of peer-reviewed research has confirmed marijuana’s efficacy in helping treat a range of ailments. For many patients, existing therapies do not work, and medical marijuana could be their best hope of effective relief. Denying such patients this relief — when we know how to safely and effectively deliver it to them — would be immoral.
Gov. David Paterson and the Legislature have considered this bill for years. The Assembly has already passed it twice. It takes a responsible approach to medical marijuana — one that will set a new standard for the rest of the country.
New York’s medical marijuana bill should be enacted without delay.
Craig M. Burridge is executive director of The Pharmacists Society of the State of New York.