New York: State Senate Will Determine Fate of Medical Marijuana
By Steve Elliott
The fate of a medical marijuana bill in New York is still unresolved, where the Assembly has approved legislation, but a similar measure remains stalled in the Senate, despite the votes apparently being there to pass it.
Advocates cheered last week as the Assembly approved the Compassionate Care Act, which would permit authorized patients to possess small amounts of cannabis, reports Karen DeWitt at WRVO. The legislation would also set up licensed dispensaries to grow and sell medical marijuana.
"This is the group that I'm most concerned with, Mr. Speaker," said Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, who voted with the majority of Democrats in favor, saying the measure would give law abiding citizens access to much-needed medicine. "Those people who will not even entertain the notion of the illegal use of marijuana just because it is illegal, not because it is not efficacious."
The measure did win some converts on the Republican side of the aisle. Assemblyman Steve Katz, who had voted against the bill in the past, voted for it this time after being stopped by police for allegedly possessing marijuana. The charges were later dropped, but Katz has become a cannabis advocate, even investing in some businesses operating in states where it is legal.
"Over the past year, I've gone above and beyond to explore the beneficial aspects of medicinal cannabis and the surrounding industry," Katz said.
Assemblywoman Addie Russell of Watertown was one of the few Democrats to vote against the bill. She claimed she was worried about federal laws that still consider marijuana illegal for any purpose.
"I have a real concern about putting caregivers in a difficult position," Russell said.
But the Senate version of the medical marijuana bill, sponsored by a member of the ruling coalition, Independent Democratic Conference member Sen. Diane Savino, has recently gained the support of maverick GOP Sen. Mark Grisanti.
Savino has repeatedly said the votes are there in the Senate to pass the bill, if the measure is only allowed on the floor for a vote. "They ought to do so before the legislative session ends on June 19," wrote the editorial board of The New York Times on Sunday.
According to Savino, 39 senators have told her they will vote for her bill if it reaches the floor, more than the 32 needed for passage.