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 National, World

Israel intensifies Gaza assault, Egyptians revise truce plan

A Palestinian firefighter reacts as he tries to put out a fire at Gaza's main power plant, which witnesses said was hit in Israeli shelling, in the central Gaza Strip July 29, 2014.

Israel knocked out Gaza's only power plant, while Egyptian mediators prepared a revised proposal for halting its war with Islamist militants in the enclave.

in Sports

Star sprinter Torrin Lawrence dies at 25

FILE - In this June 20, 2013 file photo, Torrin Lawrence reacts after his heat in the senior men's 400-meter dash at the U.S. Championships athletics meet in Des Moines, Iowa. Former University of Georgia 400-meter runner Torrin Lawrence died in a car accident early Monday, July 28, 2014 in Cordele, Ga. He was 25.

Celebrated track star Torrin Lawrence has been killed in a tragic road accident in Georgia.

in National

U.S. marshals, police wounded, fugitive dead in NYC gunfight

A New York Police Officer stands guard inside a cordoned area at the site of a shooting in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, New York on July 28, 2014.

Two U.S. marshals and a New York police detective were wounded and a fugitive wanted on sex abuse charges was killed in a shootout in Greenwich Village.

in National, World

U.S says Russia violated nuclear treaty, urges immediate talks

FOR USE AS DESIRED, YEAR END PHOTOS - FILE - President Barack Obama meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, Monday, June 17, 2013. Obama and Putin discussed the ongoing conflict in Syria during their bilateral meeting.

In another sign of deteriorating relations, the U.S. government claims that Moscow has violated the Cold War treaty.

in National, World

Civilians killed in eastern Ukraine amid fierce fighting

Armed pro-Russian separatists stand guard on the suburbs of Shakhtarsk, Donetsk region on July 28, 2014.

Intense fighting between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine kills at least 19 civilians.