Medical marijuana bill teeters as Cuomo adds last-minute demands

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The state Legislature only has until Thursday to wrap up its business for the session, including a longstanding and seemingly stalled medical marijuana bill.
Credit: iStockphoto

The state Legislature only has until Thursday to wrap up its business for the session, including a longstanding and seemingly stalled medical marijuana bill.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo met with Senate leaders late Monday, but there was no clear indication of the bill’s likelihood to make it to senators’ desks by Tuesday.

Advocates in Albany took issue with Cuomo’s new list of demands and his willingness to negotiate in the press despite what they called a lack of communication with lawmakers on an issue that a recent poll showed 62 percent of New Yorkers support.

“It’s because of issues like this that New Yorkers get frustrated with Albany,” said Gabriel Sayegh, state director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

Hours before the closed-door session, Cuomo released a list to the New York Daily News of what his administration would need in order to possibly support the Compassionate Care Act, a version of which already passed through the Democratically controlled Assembly.

Among the conditions for his support are eliminating smoking of marijuana in favor of other delivery systems such as vaporization or pills and cutting down the number of 20 proposed chronic illnesses eligible for treatment that include cancer and epilepsy.

The administration also wants the law to give oversight of the program to the state Health Department instead of an advisory committee of medical professionals and to eliminate provisions to respect prescriptions approved in other states.

“If we can address those concerns, there will be a bill. But I’m not going to be part of a system that’s just going to wreak havoc, Cuomo said in a radio interview with WCNY radio. “If it is not done well, it is a public safety and public health disaster.”

Bill sponsor Sen. Diane Savino told reporters that lawmakers only heard of the concerns through Daily News story, and that many of Cuomo’s concern can be or already have been addressed.

Under New York State law, the bill needs to be submitted at least three days before a vote, meaning no later than Tuesday before the session ends on June 19. However, the governor could override the requirement if negotiations are ongoing.

“The only thing holding this up is the governor’s office and the state Senate,”the Drug Policy Alliance’s Sayegh added. “It’s unconscionable.”

Follow Chester Jesus Soria on Twitter @chestersoria


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