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June 21, 2014

Area patient: Pot bill is disappointing

A Butternuts man using marijuana to deal with chronic pain said he was “disillusioned and shocked” by what he has heard about the state’s decision to legalize the use of medical marijuana, saying it did not go far enough.

Officials interviewed on the subject Friday were generally cautious, and local lawmakers explained their votes.

The state Senate voted 49-10 on Friday to approve the legislation, which will make New York the 23rd state to legalize medical marijuana. This followed a vote of 113-12 earlier in the day by the Assembly, after a compromise between legislative leaders and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The bill doesn’t allow the drug to be sold in plant form or smoked; it can be administered through a vaporizer or in an oil base. Marijuana could be prescribed for 10 diseases, including cancer, epilepsy, AIDS and neuropathy. The drug won’t be available in New York for at least 18 months while regulations are written and five state-approved producers and distributors are chosen.

Bruce Dunn, 67, said he has been using medical marijuana with the support of his doctor, following a pickup truck accident in 1988.

“I really deserve better than being a criminal for doing what’s best for my health,” he said.

Dunn uses marijuana through vaporization or in food to help keep his morphine prescribed for his chronic pain to a minimum. A lot of people who could benefit from the change won’t have the opportunity because the options provided for in the law can be expensive, he said. Initially he was diagnosed with a form of quadriplegia, but he has regained the function of his limbs but still suffers from very significant and constant pain.

Bassett Medical Center spokeswoman Karen Huxtable said in a media release: “Medical marijuana is an accepted therapy as validated by the agreement between the governor and legislature. Under the new law, 20 hospitals will be authorized to distribute medical marijuana and doctors will have to be trained and certified to prescribe it. But with the law’s passage comes the work of further developing and implementing a medical marijuana program. It is still unclear how the hospitals will be chosen and a lot of detail has yet to be worked out over the next 18 months. Bassett did not to apply to be one of the 20 hospitals, but has instead chosen to learn from this pilot phase of the program.”

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