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Some Hurdles Remain as Medical Marijuana Bill Makes Way Through State Legislature

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TWC News: Some Hurdles Remain as Medical Marijuana Bill Makes Way Through State Legislature
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New York could join 20 other states this year if it legalizes marijuana for medicinal purposes, but there are still some hurdles, and a question of whether the governor supports the bill making its way through the legislature. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.

Last week, the medical marijuana bill, known as the Compassionate Care Act, passed through the state Senate's Health Committee.

Supporters of the bill say that was its biggest obstacle. It now heads to the finance committee, and then possibly the full Senate, where its chances look good.

"Yes, I am absolutely confident if it gets out of finance, because there's support in all three conferences for the Compassionate Care Act, and there's no logical argument against it," said state Senator Diane Savino of Staten Island.

While the bill has more Republican support in the state Senate than ever before, there is still opposition.

"I'm not confident at this point that it's going to come up," said state Senator Tom O'Mara of Elmira, N.Y. "There are still individuals that are looking to put further limitations on it, particularly, I think, in the area of smoking."

The latest amendment to the bill bans smoking of marijuana for any patients under 21, but some Republicans say that's still not good enough.

"I believe we've achieved everything we can on the issue of smoking," Savino said. "Again, we restrict it to those under the age of 21. It's prohibited expressly."

This week, a different version of the bill passed the full Assembly, as it has many times in the past.

"We are touch and go, which is a lot closer than we've ever been," said Assemblyman Richard Gottfried of Manhattan. "So I'm optimistic, but of course, sometimes, close but no cigar."

Governor Andrew Cuomo had proposed a much narrower program earlier this year that appears to be dead. While he has expressed support for medical marijuana, he has not explicitly stated that he would sign the state Senate's version of the bill.

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