As current President of the Division of Addictions of New York State Psychological Association (NYSPA), and a substance use treatment professional in the field for over 30 years, I applaud the Assembly Health Committee for passing the Compassionate Care Act today. Governor Cuomo’s recent acknowledgement that cannabis has medical value for some seriously ill people is a wonderful development, but the 1980 Olivieri Law that he proposes using has significant restrictions that will prevent many patients who need the medicine from receiving it. I urge Cuomo to work with the State Legislature to enact comprehensive medical marijuana legislation this session.
The Compassionate Care Act (A.6357-A, Gottfried/S.4406-A, Savino) offers New York the right system. Many of my colleagues in the addiction and mental health treatment communities support this bill as reflected in endorsements by the New York State Psychological Association and its Division on Addiction. We recommend that certifying practitioners and patients should receive comprehensive education about the potential benefits and risks associated with marijuana use, strategies for assessing risk and protocols for minimizing risk. Concerns about misuse, like with any medication, should lead to referrals to appropriate mental health and substance use treatment professionals for assessment and treatment. There is overwhelming evidence that medical cannabis can be used safely and is effective for many serious medical conditions. It is also clear that the benefits of medical marijuana outweigh the risks for the majority of appropriate patients.