Amendments May Help Bring Medical Marijuana Bill to Vote – WGRZ-TV

New Amendments to Medical Marijuana Bill

Danny Spewak 11:36 p.m. EDT April 27, 2014

Amendments to a Senate bill could help sway opponents of medical marijuana.

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ALBANY – New amendments to the Compassionate Care Act in the State Senate could help sway opponents of medical marijuana legalization to finally bring the matter to a vote for the first time in history, according to a New York City-based non-profit.

Gabriel Sayegh, the state director for the Drug Policy Alliance, said the Senate is “closer than it’s ever been” to passing a legalization bill. Although the Assembly has passed the bill four times, the Senate has never discussed it in a committee hearing. In 17 years, Senate leadership has never allowed the bill to the reach the floor for a vote, even though Sayegh said he believes there’s more than enough bi-partisan support to pass it along to the governor’s desk.

But several new amendments in the Senate may change that. Specifically, the bill has been changed to the number of medical conditions eligible for medical marijuana treatment.

“For additional conditions to be added, patients would have to go to a committee that would be put together by the Department of Health,” Sayegh said. “That’s one of the biggest changes here.”

Sayegh, whose organization supports legalization of medical marijuana, also said the new bill would restrict people 21 years and younger from smoking the marijuana, instead forcing them to use alternative forms. Another amendment would change the way the medical marijuana dispensary system would work.

“The hope is that these changes expedite this process, that the senate leadership finally agrees to bring this bill to the floor for a vote,” Sayegh said. “We know there’s enough votes to pass it. It has strong bi-partisan support.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo still has not expressed support for the bill, though he has softened his stance recently and said last week he’d keep an “open mind.”

“It’s long past time,” Sayegh said, “that we provided relief for people living with debilitating conditions in our state.”

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