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URMC likely won’t dispense medical marijuana
by Jane Flasch
After two hours of debate Friday, state senators passed the Compassionate Care act which includes a plan for distributing medical marijuana for people suffering from cancer, aids and other specific medical conditions.
"People are suffering right now and that suffering can be alleviated," said Ted O'Brien, (D) Irondequoit.
The plan differs dramatically from the one in play up until two days ago. It limits medical conditions that are eligible and limits the drug to non-smoking forms. There is also concern whether some of the sickest people will have access to dispensaries.
"If you live in Rochester, NY there will probably be a one," said Curtis Haas, URMC Director of Pharmacy.
When Governor Cuomo first proposed medical marijuana research centers at hospitals around the state it was all but certain the University of Rochester Medical Center would house one of them. The law that was passed now seems to take research centers off the table.
Any dispensary in Rochester would not be tied to the medical center pharmacy. "It's not likely, not as the legislation is written now" said Haas.
Marijuana is not a federally approved drug. That means regardless of this new state law it will be illegal to transport the drug across state lines and also against federal regulation for pharmacists to dispense it.
"The state regulations are set up where physicians don't directly prescribe the drug. They register a patient then can give certain instructions but they don't write prescriptions and it's not filled as it would be for a FDA approved drug," said Haas.
Dispensaries will be run by companies that will also grow the marijuana and manufacture the oils and other products.
To be eligible, a patient must find a state-approved physician who will then certify them as eligible and for what dosage. Getting a supply or re-supply of the drug will not be like going to the corner pharmacy.
There are only 20 dispensaries for the entire state. The law requires that they be sprinkled throughout the state. Because of the population base, Rochester is likely to have one. Yet people in surrounding areas may have to drive some distance.
They will have to do that every month because the law limits a dosage to a 30 day supply.
The law is written similar to one that is already up and running in New Jersey. But distribution problems have made it slow going there. Just 17-hundred patients are certified to receive the drug.
Senator Ted O'Brien calls it "sensible legislation."
"We could be here not passing any legislation because we don't have the perfect bill," he said. "People are suffering right now."
Governor Cuomo indicated he would sign the