Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders agreed on a measure Thursday that will make New York the 23rd state in the nation to legalize medicinal marijuana, but the drug could not be dispensed to patients in its smokable form.
Marijuana, under the plan, could only be prescribed in oil-based pills or in a form allowing it to be vaporized. The Cuomo administration had earlier discussed a plan that would have used marijuana seized by police in such a program, but that idea has been shelved.
Five companies would get the state’s green light to grow marijuana, and it would be dispensed at 20 locations across New York.
The legislation also authorizes the governor, or whoever succeeds him, to discontinue the program. Those with cancer, epilepsy, AIDS and certain other illnesses would be eligible for prescriptions. Doctors and patients who abuse the programs could face criminal penalties.
Cuomo, who had earlier resisted initiatives aimed at making marijuana available to sick people with a prescription, argued the legislation “strikes the right balance” between public safety concerns and the need to alleviate the pain of suffering patients.
However, Assemblyman Pete Lopez, R-Schoharie, told The Daily Star he plans to vote against the bill, contending states should not legalize a drug that remains outlawed by the federal government.
“I’m a bit mystified by all the hype on this issue from both sides,” said Lopez, arguing that if the federal government determines marijuana is safe as pain medication then it could allow doctors to prescribe it. By jumping the gun on such a determination, states are setting themselves up for inevitable clashes with federal agencies, he added.
Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, who has expressed reservations with the marijuana legislation, was still studying the latest incarnation of the bill, his spokesman said. Seward, who was at the state Capitol late Thursday with other senators, could not be reached for comment.