Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday announced that lawmakers have reached a comprehensive deal that would legalize marijuana for medical use, but will not allow for it to be smoked or consumed in edible forms. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.
After intense behind-the-scenes negotiations, state leaders emerged with a plan to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes.
The deal came together on the final day of the legislative session in a year when Governor Andrew Cuomo and every member of the state legislature is up for re-election.
"This is probably one of the most difficult pieces of legislation that we've completed in four years," Cuomo said. "It is highly nuanced. It's highly complex. It's highly balanced. Strong feelings on all sides."
The bill is highly restrictive. It does not allow the drug to be smoked, but rather authorizes edible forms of marijuana, along with vapors and oils for patients. It also gives the governor the authority to shut down the program at any time.
"This bill virtually eliminates the risk through several fail-safe mechanisms," Cuomo said. "Number one, it puts tremendous authority in the Department of Health to actually run the program and administer the program."
New York's medical marijuana program will also limit the number of organizations that can legally cultivate the drug to five, and it restricts the number of dispensaries. New york's program is expected to be up and running in 18 months.
"Now today, we're on the cusp of passing the Compassionate Care Act and giving relief to thousands of New Yorkers who have waited so long," said Jeff Klein, the leader of the state Senate's Independent Democratic Conference.
Advocates for medicinal marijuana claimed victory with their successful lobbying effort, although some had insisted that not allowing smoking would be a non-starter in negotiations.
"You have to evaluate the whole program," said state Senator Diane Savino of Staten Island. "If that becomes the only thing that stands in the way, you can't say no to that. It just doesn't make any sense."
The bill restricts the diseases and ailments for which medical marijuana will be available. Doctors will have to take a course before prescribing it to patients. Finally, the law will expire in seven years if lawmakers do not renew it.
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Governor Andrew Cuomo announces a deal on medical marijuana legislation in New York State on Thursday, June 19, 2014. [40 minutes]