The proposed medical cannabis program, one of the nation's most
restrictive, would permit the active ingredients of pot to be
inhaled as a vapor or ingested, but prohibit the smoking of
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
The state Senate had been expected to give final legislative
approval to the deal in a vote originally set for late Thursday
night. But Senate leaders agreed to Republican demands to delay it
until Friday morning to give lawmakers more time for review.
Democrats control the state Assembly, but Republicans share control
of the Senate with a breakaway group of Democrats.
"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,'" Cuomo, a Democrat, told a news conference
in Albany, the state capital.
"My trepidation has always been the risk. This bill virtually
eliminates the risk."
Under the plan, the Health Department would license five private
companies in the state to produce and distribute medical marijuana
products through dispensaries.
Patients aged at least 21, who suffer from any one of a list of
specified ailments - epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig's
disease, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, neuropathies,
spinal chord injuries, cancer and HIV/AIDS - would be eligible to
use cannabis as treatment.
The measure further allows the Health Department to approve other
"serious conditions" for use of the drug as needed.
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Patients will get a registration card allowing purchase of the drug
from a licensed dispensary; only doctors involved in their direct
care will be allowed to certify need for the drug.
The bill makes it a felony for any doctor to falsely certify a
patient's eligibility, or for a patient to defraud the program with
false certification. It makes it a misdemeanor for patients to
traffic in the prescribed drug.
The legislation has been the subject of heated last-minute
negotiations as New York's current lawmaking session drew to a
close. Versions of the bill have been approved by the liberal state
Assembly several times since the 1990s.
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, advocacy group the Marijuana Policy Project says.
(Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen and Edith Honan in New York;
Editing by Will Dunham, Steve Gorman and Clarence Fernandez)
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