Sick New Yorkers suffering from conditions that could be helped by medical cannabis protested outside the Long Island office of state Senate co-president Dean Skelos this week, demanding action on a stalled medical cannabis bill. Senate Finance Committee Chairman John DeFrancisco has said that he will allow the bill to move forward with the okay of Senate leadership.
The bill, which has already been approved by the state General Assembly on a 91 to 34 vote, would legalize the use and possession of up to 2.5 ounces of herb for qualifying patients as well as allow for state-regulated medical marijuana dispensaries and grow facilities. The Senate version would not allow for home cultivation and would ban patients under 21 from smoking medical cannabis. But sponsors of both bills say they are meeting to iron out the differences for a last-minute effort at legalizing medical cannabis in the Empire State.
New York state Sen. Diane Savino, the Democrat sponsor of the Senate bill, says she has enough votes for the bill to pass but that the bill is being blocked by Republican state Senate leaders like Skelos. The Senate bill is currently stalled in the Senate Finance Committee after gaining initial approval from the Senate Health Committee.
But time is running out. The legislative session ends June 19.
Earlier this week Savino and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, the Manhattan Democrat who wrote and sponsored the General Assembly medical cannabis bill, announced they would be meeting to work out the differences between their two bills in an attempt to expedite the process and get something passed before the deadline.
For his part, Skelos says he’s open to putting the bill before his fellow Senators if a compromise is reached. Skelos may also be pressured by growing Republican support for the bill, including Senate Vice President pro-tem, George Maziarz who signed on to the bill earlier this week.
Even if the bill does pass, it may face opposition at the governor’s desk. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week announced that he has partnered with GW Pharmaceuticals to implement a clinical trial study for medical cannabis run through state hospitals. Some speculate that the timing is mean to quash the legislative proposals.