NY Deal on Medical Marijuana Reached

Gov. Andrew Cuomo during his State of the State address Jan. 5, 2011. (Photo via Times Union)

New York is poised to become the 23rd state to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes.

But the deal announced by Cuomo with legislative leaders Thursday afternoon does not allow for the smoking of the drug.

Instead, patients would have to ingest it through other forms like vaporization or pills.

Cuomo, citing the state’s efforts to combat smoking and the fact the benefits of marijuana can be had in other forms, would not sign off on a deal that allowed the smoking of marijuana.

The Legislature is expected to enact the bill before the end of the legislative session either late Thursday or Friday.

Cuomo, who only a year ago expressed opposition to legalization medical marijuana, said the bill strikes a balance between getting needed relief that medical pot can provide and ensuring safeguards to protect against potential public health and public safety risks.

“Medical marijuana has the capacity to do a lot of good for a lot of people,” Cuomo said.

The bill covers more than half a dozen illnesses, including cancer, HIV/AIDS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s disease, epilepsy, neuropathic diseases, and multiple sclerosis.

The number of diseases covered is far more restrictive than originally pushed by bill sponsors Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island) and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan).

In order to get a deal done, the Legislature acquiesced to many of conditions Cuomo’s outlined earlier in the week, including prohibiting smoking, putting the program under the auspice of the state health commissioner, and allowing the governor to pull the plug at any time on the recommendation of the health commissioner or state police superintendent.

The law won’t go into effect for at least 18 months as the Department of Health must develop regulations, license five companies to grow and distribute the medical marijuana, train and certify doctors, and register patients.

Savino, who earlier in the week called the prohibition of smoking a “non starter,” on Thursday said cutting it from the final agreement was the only way to get a deal done. She said there are other ways like vaporization to deliver the needed relief to patients.

Critics say that legalizing medicinal marijuana is a first step toward legalizing the drug.

NY Deal on Medical Marijuana Reached

Article by Ken Lovett for NY Daily News