Powerful Labor Union AFL-CIO Backs New York Medical Marijuana Bill

By Thomas H. Clarke June 12, 2014

ALBANY, NY — One of the largest and most powerful labor unions in New York has announced their support of the Compassionate Care Act, a proposal to legalize medical marijuana in the Empire State that is fighting for survival in the final days of the 2014 legislative session.

Mario Cilento, president of New York State’s A.F.L.-C.I.O. labor union (NYS AFL-CIO) made the announcement earlier this week.

“The medical marijuana issue has been debated not just over the course of this legislative session but for many years; other states have moved forward and its time New York does the same,” Cilento wrote in a statement to union members on Monday.

“We should no longer deny patients, particularly those suffering from pain or extreme discomfort, desperately needed relief and treatment that their doctors deem appropriate…and in whatever form their doctors deem appropriate…for a narrow spectrum of illnesses,” Cilento continued.

“Calls for strict enforcement, regulation and monitoring to ensure appropriate use and keeping it out of the hands of our youth have been heard and addressed. The current bill that has a chance for passage includes appropriate oversight and accountability measures and would provide for stringent regulation of the industry and usage,” Cilento added.  “These calls should no longer be an impediment to passage, just as they have not stood in the way of other medicine currently legalized for home use, or for that matter any other product that needs to be handled with care, such as cleaners, pesticides or fertilizers.”

“The argument that this bill will help patients and improve care for thousands of ill New Yorkers should be enough to merit passage,” Cilento wrote, adding that the bill would also fit into the union’s “Making NY Work for Hardworking New Yorkers” agenda by creating new industries to help improve the state’s economy.

“Legalizing the production, regulation, transportation and distribution of medical marijuana will create thousands of good, long-term jobs and generate much needed revenue for the state,” Cilento concluded before urging union members to contact their elected representatives in Albany.

The Compassionate Care Act would create a comprehensive medical marijuana program in New York, and is sponsored by Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island), who says she has at least 40 “yes” votes, far more than needed to pass the bill in the 63 member Senate.

The bill has already passed in the Assembly by an overwhelming 91-34 vote in May, but has stalled in the Senate where Finance Committee Chairman John DeFrancisco (R-D50) said earlier this week that he would not allow the bill to advance to a vote, blocking the bill’s progress.

“The Savino bill will not come out of my committee, the Finance Committee,” DeFrancisco said Tuesday. “You don’t have any kind of reasonable research on the effects. You have people coming in here every day trying to ban e-cigarettes and use of tobacco in other ways.”

With time running out for medical marijuana in New York — the legislative session ends next Thursday — advocates urge New York residents to contact Sen. DeFrancisco and demand to let the full Senate decide the fate of the Compassionate Care Act.

Passing a comprehensive medical marijuana bill in New York has overwhelming support state wide. A recent poll from Quinnipiac University found that a super majority (83%) of New York voters support medical marijuana. The Assembly has also passed the Compassionate Care Act five times with heavy Republican support.

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