Posted on June 26, 2014 by News Admin
The final major obstacle blocking New York from becoming the 23rd medical marijuana state was cleared Thursday, setting the stage for final negotiations and a potential eleventh-hour vote as the final days of the legislative session near.
With the Chairman of the New York Senate Finance Committee unwilling to consider the Compassionate Care Act, a bill that would legalize medical marijuana in the state, the bill was discharged from the Finance Committee and re-assigned to the Rules Committee on Thursday.
“The Savino bill will not come out of my committee, the Finance Committee,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman John DeFrancisco (R-D50) had said Tuesday, upsetting patients, parents and activists state-wide, who began flooding the Senators’ office with phone calls and social media posts urging DeFrancisco to re-consider.
But when one of the state’s most powerful labor unions, the AFL-CIO, announced their support for the bill earlier this week, Senate leaders took the step to strip the bill from DeFrancisco’s committee and re-assigned it to the Rules Committee so that it could receive fair consideration.
While not “advancing” the bill in a typical sense — the Finance Committee never considered or voted on the bill — when sponsors of the bill announced the move at a Thursday press conference in Albany, they were optimistic about the Compassionate Care Act receiving a vote by the full Senate before the end of the legislative session next week.
If the Compassionate Care Act sees a vote by the full Senate, the bill — which has already passed the Assembly by a wide margin — should receive a near veto-proof majority of “yes” votes in the Senate. Bill sponsor Senator Diane Savino (D-Staten Island) says she has at least 40 “yes” votes in the 63 member Senate, including three Republican co-sponsors.
A veto-proof majority may no longer be an issue, however, as Governor Andrew Cuomo recently expressed support for the Compassionate Care Act, saying he would sign any medical marijuana bill passed by the legislature that “makes sense.”
The Compassionate Care Act has already passed in the Assembly, but recent changes by the bills two primary sponsors — Sen. Savino in the Senate and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried — would require a new vote in the lower chamber to ratify the changes, but that is merely a formality considering the 91-34 vote in May.
In order to guarantee swift passage in the final days of New York’s legislative session, which ends next week, Savino and Gottfried are in “three-way negotiations” between both chambers of the legislature and the Governor’s office.
“It’s in three-way negotiations with the governor’s office, and we will have a final product in time for the end of this legislative session,” Savino told reporters at a press conference Thursday.
Savino said negotiations are related to some of the minor details in the bill, such as language involving training protocols for doctors and measures to prevent medical marijuana from being diverted to the black market.
“It’s about making sure we’re dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s,” in what Savino describes as he “tightest, most regulated piece of legislation that will affect the medical marijuana industry in this country.”
Passing a comprehensive medical marijuana bill in New York has overwhelming support state wide. A recent poll from Quinnipiac University found that a super majority (83%) of New York voters support medical marijuana.
If lawmakers successfully push through the Compassionate Care Act in the final days of the legislative session, New York will join the ranks of 22 other medical marijuana states — most recently Minnesota — as well as the District of Columbia.
In addition, at least eight other states have passed laws to allow access to cannabidiol oil (CBD oil), a non-psychoactive concentrate derived from marijuana, to help control seizures in children with severe epilepsy.
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