The program, which would bar smoking of marijuana but allow it to be
eaten or vaporized, would be regulated by the state's Department of
Health. It includes a "fail-safe" provision that would allow the
governor to stop the program at any time, Cuomo told a news
conference in Albany, the state capital.
The plan needs final approval in the state legislature.
"I always supported the concept of if you can get the medical
benefits of medical marijuana to a suffering patient, clearly you
would want to do that," said Cuomo, a Democrat. "My trepidation has
always been the risk. This bill virtually eliminates the risk."
Under the plan, the Health Department would license five private
companies to produce and distribute marijuana through dispensaries.
Patients suffering from epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig's
Disease, Parkinson's, Huntington's disease, neuropathies, spinal
chord injuries, cancer and HIV/AIDS will be eligible to use cannabis
as treatment. The law allows the Department of Health to approve
other "serious conditions" for use of the drug as they deem
The patient will be given a registration card allowing purchase of
the drug from a licensed dispensary; only doctors who are involved
in the direct care of the patient will be allowed to certify that
the patient requires the drug.
The bill makes it a felony for any doctor to falsely certify a
patient's eligibility for the program or for a patient to defraud
the program with false certification. It makes it a misdemeanor for
patients to traffic the prescribed drug.
[to top of second column]
In addition, the drug will be produced, manufactured and distributed
in New York state.
The legislation has been the subject of heated last-minute
negotiations as New York's current legislative session draws to a
close. Versions of the bill have been approved by the liberal state
Assembly on multiple occasions since the 1990s.
The current bill must still be voted on by the state Senate, where
Republicans have a power-sharing agreement with a breakaway group of
In May, Minnesota became the 22nd of the 50 states, in addition to
the District of Columbia, to allow some sort of access to medical
marijuana, according to the advocacy group the Marijuana Policy
(Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen and Timothy Branfalt Jr;
Editing by Will Dunham and Leslie Adler)
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