As one of only two Assemblymembers with a professional background in healthcare, I feel compelled to discuss my recent affirmative vote for A.6357.
In a representative republic, such as ours, my voice and votes have been consistent with the values of my district.
Voting on this bill last year was one of the most difficult decisions I have experienced as a legislator.
I remember debating the pros and cons of this bill with my wife and my family, but ultimately, as a freshman legislator, I chose to vote the way I thought I was supposed to vote.
The weeks following the vote troubled me more than any other as an Assemblyman.
I spoke to my constituents, family, and friends about my vote.
In my district, I heard some heartbreaking stories from friends who have had loved ones forced to contend with unimaginable pain.
From experts, I learned of many ways that cannibinoid treatments can help assuage many ailments that current medicine doesn’t effectively treat.
After hearing their concerns and support for this piece of legislation, I decided that this year, when the bill came up for a vote, I would support it.
On a personal note, my mother suffers from a severe degenerative spinal condition.
Four separate surgeries and two metal rods currently run through the length of her spine.
Over the course of this past year, her condition has continued to deteriorate at an alarming rate. Oxycodone, Lyrica, Nerurontin, Perkoset, and Ambien, all in massive doses and all of which she is now dependent on, continue to fail to mitigate my mother’s relentless pain.
It is the most difficult thing for a son to watch, and it is devastating to know that so many, like my mother, suffer every day under similar circumstances.
There is no good reason why we should continue to prevent a viable medication from being used in our state, and that is why I supported this bill.
We cannot ignore the reality that cannibas has real medicinal properties, and to be perfectly clear, this bill will not legalize the type of behavior one would imagine in a Cheech and Chong or Harold and Kumar movie.
Rather, this bill takes a responsible step in helping those who are in need.
Study after study clearly shows that cannabinoid botanical medicine aids the treatment of intractable visceral pain from cancers, unstoppable neuropathic pain from spinal disorders and advanced-stage neuropathy, asthma, glaucoma, spasticity in Multiple Sclerosis, weight loss in various ‘wasting syndromes’, and emesis in chemotherapy patients.
As a health care provider and state legislator, I believe we have an obligation to employ every weapon in the pharmaceutical armory available to help those with indomitable pain.
Moreover, I believe that the misrepresentation of the medicinal value in cannibinoids as they pertain to health protection or treatment is a great injustice to those currently suffering from these ailments.
Even if a condition is incurable, we owe it to those afflicted to use every means available to alleviate pain.
After working across the aisle on this issue and with experts from around the world, I believe that we have created a model that other states will be proud to follow.
Under this new legislation, the New York Department of Health will help medical professionals in our state to administer this treatment method responsibly.
Our state will have a strict licensing protocol for all cultivators, distributors, and medical professionals.
The state’s ISTOP program will monitor all certifications to prevent abuse, and this new policy will bring a new revenue stream to our cash starved state.
To my more conservative constituents who may find fault with my decision to vote this way, I want to say that I understand.
Though marijuana is not a cure for any illness, its pain palliative properties can prolong and enhance the quality of life for many patients enduring horrible diseases.
If health providers believe that medicinal cannibas is the appropriate medication, our government has no business to deny an individual the right combat pain in the most effective way they deem fit.
In closing, my friends, I want to reassure you that we have written a good bill.
We will be on the right side of history, and we will improve the lives of those who are suffering.
Dr. Steve Katz