New York is the 22nd state to legalize some forms of marijuana for medical use. Credit: Linda Davidson / The Washington Post
New York state lawmakers gave final approval on Friday to a bill that would allow limited access to medical marijuana in New York, joining 22 other states where cannabis has been legalized for therapeutic purposes.
The bill, passed on a 49-10 state Senate vote, embodies a deal reached on Thursday between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers that would allow patients to inhale vaporized extracts of pot's active ingredients or to eat them in food, but prohibit smoking of marijuana itself.
Exactly how medical marijuana products will be formulated in New York will be left up to the state's Health Department under the program, which the governor would have discretion to halt at any time, and which will expire after seven years, unless lawmaker reauthorize it.
Cuomo, a Democrat who had long resisted proposals to legalize medical pot, in part because of law enforcement issues, said the compromise bill balances public safety with the health needs of individuals seeking relief from serious ailments.
The state Assembly passed the measure early Friday by a vote of 117 to 13, hours before final action in the Senate. Cuomo is expected to sign the measure into law.