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Cuomo rejects newly amended medical marijuana bill

Tuesday, June 17, 2014
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Haley Hilt, 7, of East Greenbush, N.Y., who suffers from epilepsy, is comforted by her mother Melissa and a friend during Senate health committee meeting at the Capitol on Tuesday, May 20, 2014, in Albany, N.Y.
Haley Hilt, 7, of East Greenbush, N.Y., who suffers from epilepsy, is comforted by her mother Melissa and a friend during Senate health committee meeting at the Capitol on Tuesday, May 20, 2014, in Albany, N.Y.

— Gov. Andrew Cuomo quashed a newly amended bill that would legalize medical marijuana, saying Tuesday he would not sign the bill into law if it passed both chambers of the Legislature, even as negotiations continued.

State lawmakers amended the bill Monday, narrowly beating a deadline and setting up a possible vote by the end of the week. But Cuomo said the bill still doesn't address some of his concerns, including banning smoking of the drug and requiring the program to be evaluated in five years.

"We've made progress in the discussion, but we're not there yet," the Democrat told public radio's "Capitol Pressroom."

Following the radio interview, Senate co-leader Jeff Klein and the bill's sponsors Sen. Diane Savino and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried met with Cuomo to discuss the measure.

The amendments to the so-called Compassionate Care Act, which would legalize medical marijuana for severely ill patients, removed three conditions for which marijuana could be prescribed: diabetes, lupus and post-concussion syndrome. They also do away with the advisory panel that would oversee the program, as Cuomo suggested on Monday.

And the bill addresses Cuomo's concern over who can administer the drug by allowing only doctors to prescribe marijuana.

"I think we're making progress on a lot of the issues," Savino, a Staten Island Democrat, said following the closed-door meeting, but she evaded questions on the specifics of the conversation with Cuomo. A spokesman said lawmakers were waiting for bill language from Cuomo.

The amended bill, introduced shortly before midnight Monday, needs to be on lawmakers' desks for three days before it can be voted on, though Cuomo could waive the aging period. The legislative session is scheduled to end Thursday.

Advocates are pressing Cuomo to allow the drug to be smoked, saying that is the fastest way of ingesting the drug, which helps with nausea associated with chemotherapy treatment.

"This saga has the potential to undermine his credibility as a statesman because it would simply make New York a laughingstock," said Aaron Houston, a lobbyist and strategist for Ghost Group, a company focused on the marijuana sector. "If the bill dies because of the governor's shenanigans it will be an albatross that will follow him."

When pressed as to why his office hasn't provided language for the medical marijuana bill, Cuomo said, "I don't want to get into the negotiations with the Senate leadership and the Assembly leadership," he said.

 
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