News

New York poised to become 23rd state to legalize medical marijuana

New York poised to become 23rd state to legalize medical marijuana

MEDICAL MARIJUANA: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 marijuana itself. Photo: Associated Press

By TG Branfalt Jr

ALBANY N.Y. (Reuters) – Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers announced a deal on Thursday that would allow limited access to medical marijuana in New York, making it the 23rd U.S. state to legalize some kind of availability of cannabis for therapeutic purposes.

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 marijuana itself.

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 reauthorize it.

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.

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)

Recent Headlines

in Entertainment

This weekend in entertainment history

rainman

A look back on some of Hollywood's most memorable headlines.

in National

Amanda Knox murder conviction overturned

FILE - In this Jan. 31, 2014, file photo, Amanda Knox prepares to leave the set following a television interview in New York. Knox is engaged to Colin Sutherland, a musician who recently moved to Seattle from New York, a person close to the Knox family confirmed for The Associated Press. Knox’s murder conviction in the 2007 stabbing of her roommate has been reinstated by an Italian court, but the former college exchange student maintains her innocence and vows she won’t willingly go back to Italy. Both Knox and Sutherland are 27. No wedding date had been set.

Italy's highest court has overturned the murder conviction against Amanda Knox, bringing to a definitive end the high-profile case.

in National

Time for Iran to make tough decisions in nuclear talks

In this March 26, 2015, photo, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, center, leaves a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and other U.S. officials at a hotel in Lausanne, Switzerland. U.S. and Iranian diplomats gather at a Baroque palace in Europe, a historic nuclear agreement within reach. Over Iraq’s deserts, their militaries fight a common foe. Leaders in Washington and Tehran, capitals once a million miles from each other in ideological terms, wrestle for the first time in decades with the notion of a rapprochement.

Six world powers and Iran move closer to a deal, but there are still major disagreements.