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OLEAN – Members of the Cattaraugus County Board of Health made known their disapproval of an Assembly bill that would allow the use of medical marijuana at their Dec. 10 meeting.

“We reject this bill,” County Public Health Director Dr. Kevin Watkins said, acknowledging pros and cons of the proposed law. “The use of medical marijuana has not been proven by the FDA as viable over other treatments, and there are federal laws in place to prohibit its use.”

While Watkins stood firm on the disapproval of the bill, Dr. Gil Witte, a member of the health board, as well as a member of the Olean Medical Group, said that the uses of medical marijuana seem to have some benefit for some patients.

“It is difficult to write a law that ensures that the use is properly enforced and not abused,” he said. “How do you put into law a bill that makes sure it works the right way?”

According to the language of the Assembly bill on the table, a few points make the law a bit more contentious, according to Watkins. For instance, those that would be able to receive a prescription would have to have a severe condition, meaning something that creates a debilitating or life-threatening condition. Included are cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord, epilepsy, cachexia, wasting syndrome, Crohn’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, fibromyalgia, arthritis, lupus and diabetes.

The law would also create a certification card for those that would receive the drug, according to the language of the bill. Another item Watkins brought up was that the bill would allow smoking of the drug in various places, to include health care facilities.

There is a payback to counties within the state, should the bill pass. Watkins said $125 per pound of the marijuana manufactured and dispensed in New York State would be collected by the state. Of that amount, 50 percent would be returned to the counties in a revenue format.

The Assembly has recessed until January. The bill will be taken up once they return. A form of it has also been referred to the State Senate’s Health Committee for review.