ALBANY — Backers of legalizing medical marijuana in New York were flying high Tuesday after the measure cleared a state Senate committee for the first time.
The Health Committee approved the bill on a 9-8 vote, with one Republican, Sen. William Larkin of Orange County, joining eight Democrats in voting “yes.”
Medical marijuana advocates, who have been frustrated for years by Senate opposition, erupted in cheers and applause when the final tally was announced.
“This bill is really about a simple concept, which is to alleviate suffering,” said Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan). “I can’t think of a more important or noble pursuit on the part of . . . the Legislature.”
To improve the bill’s chances, its sponsor, Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island), amended it to limit to 20 the number of ailments for which marijuana could be prescribed. That list includes cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The bill would also create an advisory panel to consider expanding or reducing the list in the future based on science and doctor recommendations.
Savino also tried to alleviate fears that New York’s program could mirror the much-maligned California program that critics say made it too easy to obtain pot.
She said the bill “would create the tightest, most-regulated program in the nation.”
The legislation, for example, would require that every pot plant have a bar code to make “impossible to divert this into the black market,” Savino said.
And it would restrict to 20 the number of concerns that would be licensed to grow the pot.
Savino said she has corralled at least 39 “yes” votes in the Senate, enough to get it passed.
Still, she sounded a note of caution. “This is step one,” she said. “We are by no means at the end of the line yet.”
The bill now heads to the Finance Committee. If it passes there, it could be brought to the full Senate vote before the session ends next month.
Under the power-sharing deal between Republicans and five breakaway Democrats that control the Senate, each leader can block any bill from being considered for for a full vote.
The Senate’s Republican leader, Dean Skelos (R-Nassau County) says he supports medical marijuana use in oil form, but has reservations about allowing the drug’s use through smoking.
Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Suffolk County) has sponsored a bill that would allow medical pot only in a form that can’t be smoked, but Savino said that could seriously hamper some patients. Instead, her bill would ban anyone under 21 from smoking medical pot.
This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service — if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.