New York is the 23rd state to legalize medical marijuana, and Governor Andrew Cuomo says he is trying to strike the right balance with the legislation. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.
Governor Andrew Cuomo does not want there to be any confusion. His decision to sign a bill allowing for medical marijuana in New York is not intended to pave the way for the drug's general legalization in the Empire State.
"I am against legalizing marijuana. And that's not what this is. This is medical marijuana," Cuomo said. "So no smoking, only through a prescription, highly regulated, only for a very descriptive set of conditions."
The bill has tighter controls than in many other states, controls that have rankled some advocates. The legislation expires in seven years, and only New Yorkers with serious medical conditions, including cancer, HIV/AIDS, Lou Gehrig's Disease, Parkinson's Disease, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy, will be eligible to get the drug. No one will be allowed to smoke it.
"Smoking marijuana is dangerous to your health, so it was almost oxymoronic that a health department would operate a program allowing smoking, which they spend a significant amount of their time trying to stop people from smoking," Cuomo said.
Monday's signing was ceremonial. The governor officially signed the bill into law on Saturday to meet a deadline.
For many supporters of the legislation, the bill signing is a long time coming. Efforts to legalize medical marijuana have been languishing in Albany for 17 years.
Maryanne Houser and her 10-year-old daughter Amanda spoke at the ceremony. Amanda has a severe form of epilepsy, and she suffers from multiple seizures every day.
"We were prepared to move out of New York State if we needed to, in order to get Amanda this treatment," Maryanne Houser said.
"I hope it comes soon," Amanda Houser said.
The medical marijuana program is supposed to be up and running within a year and a half.