Twenty-two states and Washington, D.C. have legalized some form of medical marijuana, and for the last few years, New York has appeared poised to join the list. Today, the State Assembly moved New York one step closer to legalization by passing a bill that allows the possession and use of up to two and a half ounces of marijuana by patients suffering from serious and debilitating conditions, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy.
But we’ve been here before–this is the fifth time in the last seven years that the Democrat-led Assembly has passed a medical marijuana bill, only for it to die in the Republican-controlled Senate. This bill, known as the Compassionate Care Act, surpasses a program advocated for by Governor Andrew Cuomo; it will permit organizations to establish dispensaries to deliver marijuana to patients and caregivers certified by healthcare providers, part of a “seed to sale” system meant to prevent illegal use. A recent Quinnipiac poll found that 83% of New York voters support medical marijuana in some form.
With less than four weeks left in the current legislative session, doubts remain that the bill will pass the State Senate. But this year, the hopes of decriminalization advocates have been buoyed by the support of some State Senators, most notable among them Sen. Diane Savino, of Staten Island. Savino, a member of the Independent Democratic Conference, a caucus which shares leadership with the Republicans, is a longtime advocate for medical marijuana: a similar bill she sponsored narrowly passed the Senate Health Committee last week. She told the New York Times that she has the support of as many as 40 senators.
For the bill to be brought to a vote, it needs the approval of the Republican leader, Sen. Dean G. Skelos of Long Island. Savino is leaning hard on Skelos, in order to bring the bill to the Senate floor before the session ends on June 19th. “I’m doing this,” she said in an interview with the Times. “It’s going to happen.”
Follow Phillip Pantuso on Twitter @phillippantuso.