Published on Jan 5, 2014

January 04, 2014 MSNBC News



Crain's New York Business

Medical marijuana may not be kind to hospitals

Health systems that participate in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to distribute medical marijuana could run afoul of federal laws—jeopardizing their government funding, drug advocates say.


Updated: January 7, 2014 6:15 p.m.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to legalize medical marijuana program could put hospitals in a bind. Marijuana advocates say hospitals in other states where medical pot is legal have steered clear of distributing the drug for fear of running afoul of federal laws—and possibly losing government funding.

An executive order Mr. Cuomo intends to announce at his State of the State address Wednesday in Albany would use a 1980 state law to allow 20 hospitals in New York to distribute the drug to patients suffering from cancer, glaucoma or other “approved” diseases, according to the law named after Antonio Oliveri, a former city councilman and assemblyman who died from a brain tumor and advocated marijuana as a drug that could relieve the side effects of chemotherapy.

The law, however, does not explicitly allow hospitals to buy the drug or to sell it to patients. Medical marijuana advocates say the “Olivieri law” only allows for the use of marijuana that comes from the federal government or local drug busts, which may not be medical grade marijuana. That could make it difficult for hospitals to make money on a pot program. It would also mean a medical marijuana program would have to be funded through the state Department of Health, health care industry experts said.

“They would presumably have to find money somewhere for testing the purity and safety of the seized marijuana and packaging it,” said Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan). “There would be considerable staff and administrative expenses for the department.”


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