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Medical marijuana in New York: Who will be able to use it?

This Feb. 1, 2011 file photo shows medical

This Feb. 1, 2011 file photo shows medical marijuana clone plants at a medical marijuana dispensary in Oakland, Calif. (Credit: AP / Jeff Chiu)

About midday Friday,  the New York Senate voted to approve a medical marijuana bill. If you’re just skimming the headlines, you might expect to start seeing people smoking joints all over New York. Not so fast. There will be no legal way to smoke marijuana, and the list of conditions that make someone eligible to use medical marijuana is brief.
 
Early last week, the version of the law prohibited smoking medical marijuana in a public place, anywhere smoking tobacco is prohibited, and for anyone under the age of 21, but did not preclude the option entirely. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo had demanded several changes, including a ban on smoking, which has now been added.
 
“Take smoke out of the picture and it softens the blow,” says says Dr. Jeffrey L. Reynolds, executive director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (LICADD), “both from a medical standpoint and in terms of the message we’re sending to the community.”
 
So who is eligible for medical marijuana?
 
The list for eligibility was significantly reduced during this week’s negotiations. Only patients with the following would be eligible for a medical marijuana prescription:
- Cancer
- Positive status for human immunodeficiency virus or acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV-AIDS)
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gherig’s disease)
- Parkinson's disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord  
- Epilepsy
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Neuropathies
- Huntington's disease
 
In addition, anyone with the following conditions or complications as a result of the list above:
- Cachexia or wasting syndrome
- Severe or chronic pain
- Severe nausea
- Seizures
- Severe or persistent muscle spasms
 
The state’s Department of Health commissioner, who will oversee medical marijuana, will determine in the coming years whether to add Alzheimer's, muscular dystrophy, dystonia,  post-traumatic stress disorder and rheumatoid arthritis. The commissioner has discretion to add others to the list.

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