A bill that would legalize medical marijuana in New York is gaining traction — but a few key state senators may still attempt to block it.
Senate Finance Committee chairman John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) said Monday the bill wouldn’t even be put to a vote in his committee. But New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo publicly signaled support for the legislation on the same day — the first time he’s done so. Now the battle is about to reach boiling point.
DeFrancisco is perhaps the legislation’s biggest hurdle. Though his office declined to comment, the senator has previously said he is opposed to medical marijuana because the federal Food and Drug Administration has not approved it as a valid method to treat pain.
“The…bill will not come out of my committee, the Finance Committee,” DeFrancisco told the Poughkeepsie Journal. “You don’t have any kind of reasonable research on the effects.”
Scientists may not understand exactly how marijuana numbs pain, but saying that there is no “reasonable research” on how cannabis can help the sick is not true. Many doctors now say marijuana can be an effective medication when used appropriately.
Even Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent and a longtime opponent of medical marijuana, publicly apologized for his reflexive disbelief of the drug’s potential, saying he had not explored the science as thoroughly as he should have done.
“There are always going to be people who are ideologically opposed to this because they continue to look at all drugs as bad,” Sen. Diane Savino, who is sponsoring the legislation, told Mashable. “At some point, you’re not going to be able to change their mind.”
Savino and other proponents of the legislation don’t just have the governor on their side — they have public opinion.
According to a recent poll from Quinnipiac University, nearly 90% of New Yorkers favor legalizing medical cannabis.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo delivers his annual State of the State address at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany, New York on Jan. 8.
“If the legislation makes sense, then I would sign it because I support the overall effort,” Cuomo said on Monday.
Savino took that as a sign that her side was close to passing this legislation. “Previously the governor has always tried to hedge his bets, partly because he didn’t think we could get it done,” she said.
In fact, Cuomo has been in favor of legalizing medical marijuana for some time now. He revealed a plan in January to allow up to 20 state hospitals to use medical marijuana, and recently drafted a plan for hospitals to test cannabis oil.
Gabriel Sayegh, the New York Director at the The Drug Policy Alliance, which has been actively trying to get Savino’s bill through the State Senate, told Mashable Cuomo’s change of tone is representative of what is happening with many American politicians who are a part of this debate.
“There is a growing willingness among elected officials to take a look at that real evidence and take action on behalf of sick and suffering people,” Sayegh said.
With two weeks left before the Senate goes into recess, supporters of the bill are in for some stressful nights. Despite bipartisan support for the legislation, DeFrancisco and a select few others remain in opposition, and Savino thinks there’s a chance Cuomo could weigh in with changes of his own — which means there could be some last-minute bill-editing before anything is put to a final vote on the Senate floor.
But when all is said and done, Savino believes New York could well pass one of the most tightly regulated medical marijuana bills in the country. “We’re in a very good spot,” she said.
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