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New York to activate 34 year old medical MJ law: WI has similar law on books

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New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo is planning to activate an existing 1980 medical-marijuana law to allow some New York hospitals to dispense medical cannabis for patients with cancer, glaucoma and other illnesses, the New York Times is reporting.

The Times said Cuomo, who had previously opposed legalizing medical cannabis, is expected to make the announcement in his Jan. 8 State of the State address. The governor intends to use his executive authority, bypassing a divided legislature.

The relevant section of New York's Controlled Substances Act is 3300-a:

"Legislative purposes. The purposes of this article are: 1. to combat illegal use of and trade in controlled substances; and 2. to allow legitimate use of controlled substances in health care, including palliative care; veterinary care; research and other uses authorized by this article or other law; under appropriate regulation and subject to this article, title eight of the education law, and other applicable law."

The 1980 law is named for Antonio Olivieri, a New York City Council member and assemblyman, who had a brain tumor and advocated marijuana use to overcome the side effects of chemotherapy.

Bloomberg News reported in Feb. 2013, that under the 1980 law, marijuana was distributed by the Health Department to hospitals and then to glaucoma and cancer patients who received approval from their physician and a five-member patient-qualification review board, according to the September 1982 report. The program was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in July 1981, and the state acquired the pot from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a federal agency that studies drug addiction. Bloomberg noted that "a pamphlet given to patients advised them to "inhale deeply, hold for 10 seconds and then exhale." It warned that the most common side effect was sedation, which "rarely requires special attention, although some people find it annoying."

The Wisconsin legislature, with bipartisan majority support in both houses, passed a law similar to New York's and it was signed into law in April 1982 by then Republican Governor Lee Sherman Dreyfus. But unlike New York, Michigan, Tennessee and other states, no state program was ever created and medical cannabis ever dispensed.

Here is the Wisconsin law from the State Statutes:

961.34 Controlled substances therapeutic research.

961.34 Controlled substances therapeutic research. Upon the request of any practitioner, the controlled substances board shall aid the practitioner in applying for and processing an investigational drug permit for marijuana under 21 USC 355 (i). If the federal food and drug administration issues an investigational drug permit, the controlled substances board shall approve which pharmacies can distribute the marijuana to patients upon written prescription. Only pharmacies located within hospitals are eligible to receive the marijuana for distribution. The controlled substances board shall also approve which practitioners can write prescriptions for the marijuana. 961.34 - ANNOT. History: 1981 c. 193; 1983 a. 189 s. 329 (18); 1985 a. 146 s. 8; 1995 a. 448 ss. 16 to 19; Stats. 1995 s. 961.34.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker could theoretically make the same kind of limited move as Gov. Cuomo, but Walker has yet to display any inclination to support compassionate access in Wisconsin or marijuana law reform in any form.

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