Gov. Andrew Cuomo will announce plans to legalize medical marijuana through an executive order, the New York Times reported this evening.
Cuomo is expected to legalize medical marijuana on a limited basis at 20 hospitals for specific conditions, the Times reported on its website. Cuomo will make the announcement during his State of the State address on Wednesday, the newspaper said, citing unnamed state officials.
The move would be a shift for Cuomo, who is up for re-election in November. As recent as April, he voiced opposition to the idea, questioning whether it could be properly regulated. But he also has said that he would keep an open mind on the issue, saying it is an “evolving one.”
“I do not support medical marijuana. I understand the pros and cons. I understand the argument,” the Democratic governor told reporters then. “We are looking at it, but at this point, I don’t support medical marijuana.”
Twenty states have legalized medical marijuana, and Colorado on Wednesday approved recreational marijuana use.
There was no immediate comment from Cuomo’s office on the report.
The legalization of medical marijuana has repeatedly passed the Democratic-led Assembly, but has failed in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Still, Sen. Diane Savino, a member of the Independent Democratic Conference, said last year that she believed there would be enough votes to pass the bill in the Senate. The IDC shares power with the Republicans in the Senate.
Savino said tonight that she was aware that Cuomo was expected to take a pro-medical marijuana stance in his address. She hailed his change in position.
“I think under his leadership, we can probably have the best, most-regulated, tightest-controlled system in the nation that provides real help for patients,” she said.
The Times reported that Cuomo is expected to use a provision in the public health law that allows the state health commissioner to approve controlled substances for patients with certain diseases.
The Times said that marijuana would be allowed to be given to patients with such diseases as cancer and glaucoma. The Health Department would develop the regulations.
Savino said she’s fine with Cuomo using an executive order rather than seeking approval through the Legislature.
“I don’t need pride of ownership in this,” she said. “I’m more interested in the outcome.”
Cuomo last year supported the decriminalization of a small amount of marijuana in New York City to help limit the stop-and-frisk policy – in which young adults, mainly black and Hispanic males, are arrested for marijuana possession. But the measure didn’t have enough support in the Senate.
State Conservative Party chairman Mike Long knocked Cuomo’s stance, saying he should focus on the economy and the weak growth in the state’s population. Census figures recently showed that Florida is poised to pass New York as the third largest state in the country.
“Instead of dealing with social issues that appeal to his liberal base, he would be best doing all New Yorkers a favor and get New York back on track,” Long said Saturday.