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Election-Year Politics Could Make Medical Marijuana Deal Difficult in Albany

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In a few days, the legislative session ends in Albany, and state leaders are trying to reach a deal to legalize medical marijuana, but election-year politics could make that difficult. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.

Governor Andrew Cuomo is negotiating a medical marijuana bill with legislative leaders, but he has some conditions before moving ahead.

The governor wants a limited number of dispensaries, a five-year sunset provision on the law and to have the drug only administered orally, which means not having it smoked.

"With respect to the governor's position on smoking, it's disingenuous for him to say he doesn't support smoking marijuana," said state Senator Diane Savino, whose district covers parts of Staten Island and Brooklyn.

Experts say smoking is the most effective way to ingest the drug for medicinal purposes, but the governor said in a radio interview he doesn't want a bill that wreaks havoc.

"The state police have serious concerns about the bill. Department of Health professionals have serious concerns about the bill," Cuomo said. "When it comes to public safety and public health, we tend to look at the experts."

Republicans in the state Senate have never been terribly enthusiastic about medical marijuana.

"I've learned never to say never in this business," said Dean Skelos, the leader of the state Senate's Republican Conference. "I'm not ruling it out, I'm not ruling it in, but I've learned to never say never."

As leaders work to hash out what can actually get done in the waning days of session, two of Cuomo's opponents were in Albany Monday, a reminder that election-year politics cannot simply be shunted to the side.

Republican candidate Rob Astorino unveiled an ethics package at the state Capitol Monday. He believes the legislative session should end after the budget in April.

"I think it's best for legislators to go back to their regular jobs and also go back to their districts and help and work the people that they're supposed to represent," Astorino said.

Cuomo is also potentially facing a Democratic primary from law professor Zephyr Teachout, who was joined by her lieutenant governor running mate, Tim Wu.

"I'll tell you that right now, it's pretty clear to us that money's not going to be a problem. Resources aren't going to be a problem," Teachout said. "I'm very excited about this campaign, and the support we've gotten in just the last two weeks has been quite astounding."

The legislative session ends Thursday.

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