The University of Rochester Medical Center and White Plains Hospital are among the New York hospitals that have expressed early interest in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to legalize medical marijuana on a trial basis, according to the state.
So far, 10 hospitals or medical networks across the state have been in contact with the state about the program, a spokesman for the state Department of Health said Thursday.
Leslie White, a spokeswoman for URMC, said the hospital is “interested in being a part of any pilot program using medical marijuana.”
“Frankly, URMC should be involved in any clinical trials into its efficacy because we have a large team of scientists who have, for decades, studied ways to manage nausea from chemotherapy,” White said.
Of 10 hospitals identified by the state, five are based in New York City or Long Island, including the Montefiore Health Network, which operates a medical center in Manhattan as well as the Mount Vernon and New Rochelle hospitals. Along with the medical centers in White Plains and Rochester, others that have expressed interest are Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo and hospitals in Albany and Clinton County.
The list of interested medical centers was first reported by Capital New York.
Cuomo last week announced he will unilaterally approve a pilot program that will allow as many as 20 hospitals to distribute marijuana to patients with diseases like cancer or glaucoma and who are in a “life-threatening or sense-threatening situation.”
The program would be legal under a 1980 law that allows the Department of Health to create rules for administering controlled substances to patients for research purposes. But major questions remain, including where the hospitals would obtain the marijuana and how the program would coincide with federal law prohibiting the drug.
Steven Safyer, Montefiore’s president and CEO, said the medical network is obligated to consider “all safe and effective therapeutic options to cure illness or relieve symptoms.”
“In that spirit, we want to further explore New York’s Controlled Substance Therapeutic Program for medical marijuana and look forward to further discussions with the state Health Department,” Safyer said in a statement.
UPDATED: Michael Palumbo, White Plains Hospital’s executive vice president and medical director, weighs in with a statement:
“We are always in favor of safe and effective treatment options that can alleviate pain and suffering for patients,” he said. “At this point, we have expressed interest in learning more about the Controlled Substance Therapeutic Research Program, but have not made any commitment to participate. The next step would be to assess the program once we learn more details.”