Lawmakers discuss medical marijuana bill

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Updated: 6/16 10:56 pm

ALBANY, N.Y. - A bill allowing medical marijuana in New York State is being discussed by lawmakers in Albany.

Tensions were high in the Capitol Monday as the midnight deadline for the Compassionate Care Act, which would legalize medical marijuana, is fast approaching.

The lead sponsor of the legalization, State Senator Diane Savino, said negotiations are underway with the Governor and the Assembly.

“It’s at a very high level,” she said. “We hope to have an agreement on some of the outstanding issues that the governor has brought forward. Quite frankly, many of them have already been addressed.”

Savino said Cuomo brought his concerns and desired changes to the bill at the last minute.

Four-time cancer survivor Nancy Rivera was frustrated the governor was asking for changes.

“You can only take so many things away from the bill and still have it be effective,” she said.

One of Cuomo’s concerns was over the option to smoke medical marijuana.

“The governor has some issues with smoking,” Savino said. “He wants to do away with smoking which many patients do to get the most potent [effect].”

Savino, however, argued that Cuomo had previously supported marijuana in a smokeable form.

“Marijuana is not a gateway drug,” she said.

Rivera said it is frustrating that something that could ease her symptoms is illegal in New York.

“When I had breast cancer, chemo was the worst thing I could ever have,” she said. “That was the worst nightmare of my life.”

Rivera was at the Capitol talking with senators and shared her personal story.

“I had nausea and vomiting until there’s nothing left to come out,” she described. “Medical marijuana would have helped taken the nausea away; would have given me an appetite.”

The bill would allow medical marijuana use for 20 different life-threatening diseases, including Parkinson’s, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. However, Cuomo wants to decrease the number of listed illnesses before he supports the bill.

Savino agreed some of the illnesses were redundant and did not need to be listed. She was confident they would reach an agreement on the bill, and Cuomo will eventually sign it if it is passed.

Assemblyman John MacDonald has been a continued supporter of the bill who also works as a pharmacist. He said concerns over regulating the drug have also been addressed.

“This is not about legalization which I think is a fear of other people,” he said. “This is about dealing with it for medical conditions in a tightly prescribed environment.”

Last week, the bill moved from the Finance Committee to the Rules Committee, its final stop before a vote in the Republican-led Senate.The legislature ends its session this week.

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