New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo rejects newly amended medical marijuana bill

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has rejected a medical marijuana bill newly amended by state lawmakers to address some concerns he has raised in negotiations, which continued Tuesday.

Cuomo said the changes to the so-called Compassionate Care Act don’t include a ban on smoking the drug and requiring the program to be evaluated in five years.

Lawmakers revised the measure late Monday, just beating a deadline and setting up a possible vote by the end of the week. The regular session is scheduled to end Thursday.

“We’ve made progress in the discussion, but we’re not there yet,” the Democrat told public radio’s “Capitol Pressroom” on Tuesday.

Following the radio interview, Senate co-leader Jeff Klein and the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Diane Savino and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, met with Cuomo to discuss the measure.

The bill would legalize medical marijuana for severely ill patients. Among the changes made Monday were allowing only doctors to prescribe the drug, dropping three conditions for which marijuana could be prescribed — diabetes, lupus and post-concussion syndrome — and doing away with an advisory panel that would oversee the program.

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The amended bill, introduced shortly before midnight Monday, needs to be on lawmakers’ desks for three days before it can be voted on, though Cuomo could waive the aging period.

“I think we’re making progress on a lot of the issues,” Savino, a Staten Island Democrat, said following the closed-door meeting. She evaded questions on the specifics of the conversation with Cuomo.

Advocates are pressing Cuomo to allow the drug to be smoked, saying that is the fastest way of ingesting the drug, which helps with nausea associated with chemotherapy treatment.

“This saga has the potential to undermine his ability as a statesman because it would simply make New York a laughingstock,” said Aaron Houston, a marijuana lobbyist for more than 10 years. “If the bill dies because of the governor’s shenanigans, it will be an albatross that will follow him.”

A spokesman for Savino said negotiations with Cuomo’s office are continuing and that amending the bill didn’t signify that a final deal had been reached. He said negotiators are still waiting for bill language from Cuomo.

When pressed on why his office hasn’t provided language for the medical marijuana bill, Cuomo said, “I don’t want to get into the negotiations with the Senate leadership and the Assembly leadership.”