ALBANY — For the fifth time in seven years, the State Assembly on Tuesday passed a bill legalizing medical marijuana, backing a measure that would far surpass a program Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced this year.
But with less than four weeks left in the legislative session, the prospects for passage in the State Senate remained uncertain.
The bill allows the possession and use of up to two and a half ounces of marijuana by seriously ill patients whom doctors, physician assistants or nurse practitioners have certified. It permits organizations to establish dispensaries to deliver the drug to registered users and their caregivers, part of what advocates call a “seed to sale” system meant to prevent abuse or illegal use.
“There are tens of thousands of New Yorkers with serious, debilitating, life-threatening conditions whose lives could be made more tolerable and longer by enacting this legislation,” said Assemblyman Richard N. Gottfried, a Democrat from Manhattan who heads the Health Committee and sponsored the bill.
But enacting any bill on medical marijuana may be difficult. The Assembly, where Democrats are a majority, has passed such bills as far back as 2007, but Republicans in the Senate have been chilly to the concept.
This year, supporters’ hopes have been aided by the advocacy of Senator Diane J. Savino of Staten Island, a member of the Independent Democratic Conference, a breakaway group that shares leadership with the Republicans. She has sponsored a similar bill in her chamber, and said she had the support of as many as 40 senators, including several Republicans.
Ms. Savino’s bill narrowly passed the Senate Health Committee last week; the finance panel could take it up next week.
Still, for the bill to be brought to a vote in the Senate, the Republican leader, Dean G. Skelos of Long Island, would need to allow it. Senator Skelos was considerably more circumspect about medical marijuana’s chances on Tuesday, saying no decision had been made on a vote.
Ms. Savino suggested that talks with Mr. Skelos were continuing and said she fully expected her bill to be passed before the legislative session is scheduled to end June 19.
“I’m doing this,” she said in an interview. “It’s going to happen.”
The Senate and the Assembly bills are more expansive than a program announced in January by Mr. Cuomo, which uses a 1980 law to allow some hospitals to dispense marijuana to patients.
Advocates for medical marijuana criticized the governor’s plan as difficult to put in place and fraught with legal and logistic problems, like getting enough of the drug to treat what could be tens of thousands of sick people.
Mr. Cuomo has said he would have to review any medical marijuana bill.
At least 20 states and the District of Columbia already allow some form of medical marijuana.
In the Assembly on Tuesday, the debate was less about the bill’s fate and more about potential ramifications.
Assemblywoman Jane L. Corwin, a Republican from the Buffalo area, suggested hypothetically that a drug kingpin, if certified as a caregiver, might be allowed to give marijuana to his sick child.
Mr. Gottfried, seemingly bewildered, offered a grudging yes and said, “I would hope that we would not prevent that child from having his or her life saved because of the sins of the child’s father.”
Assemblyman Stephen M. Katz, a Mohegan Lake Republican who was arrested last year with a small bag of marijuana (the charges were dropped), said a medical marijuana law could encourage the sale of various things, from soil to edible marijuana products. “Each of these different industries have the ability to create hundreds if not thousands of jobs here in our state,” he said.
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