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Cuomo confirms plans to legalize medical marijuana

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During his State of the State address Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo confirmed the revival of a law dating from 1980 legalizing the use of medical marijuana.

The law will allow the state’s hospitals to use marijuana as a therapy for patients with certain conditions, including cancer.

Curtis Haas, director of pharmacy at the University of Rochester Medical Center, expects most hospitals will welcome the opportunity.

He says the drug can alleviate symptoms like nausea and lack of appetite in some patients that currently aren’t addressed by other drugs.

“In a limited use in sick patients that have very few other options, we welcome that as something, as an option to offer patients that we currently can’t,” Haas said.

He says it’s unlikely that doctors will actually prescribe the drug as it’s still illegal under federal laws. Most likely they would recommend it as a treatment option in certain cases.

Cuomo can bypass the legislature and bring the law into effect using his authority under the state’s public health laws.

Haas says there were tight controls over the substance last time it was permitted for medical use and he expects the same this time.

“I anticipate that if it’s going to be done through hospitals that there will be a relatively stringent record keeping requirement as to inventory on hand, and kind of perpetual inventory control to document any distribution or dispensing of the product,” he said.

Haas says it’s likely a patient registration system would be part of the plan.

The move will mark a shift for Cuomo who has not supported the legalization of medical marijuana in the past.

New York will join 20 states already using the drug for medical purposes.

WXXI/Finger Lakes Reporter for the Innovation Trail