In a switch, Skelos will vote in favor of medical marijuana

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State Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) speaks at State Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) speaks at the Republican Party Convention in Rye Brook on Thursday, May 15, 2014. Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

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In a switch, the state Legislature's top Republican said he will vote in favor of legalizing medical marijuana.

Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), talking with reporters at around midnight Thursday, said the bill contains the restrictions he wanted to see -- especially a ban on smokable forms of medical marijuana, which he said could be diverted for nonmedical purposes.

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“I said my position was I didn’t want to have smoke. That’s out,” Skelos said.

He also noted the program won’t begin for at least 18 months as the state Health Department develops regulations and selects manufacturers and dispensaries. He said that gives officials time to identify “fixes that are necessary.”

“I’m satisfied that there’s no smoking and those who truly need the assistance will be able to get it,” Skelos said.

 His position on the issue has been evolving. Once an opponent, Skelos signaled in March that he could favor a bill that limited delivery of medical marijuana through oils and vaporizers. He said then many parents of children with severe forms of epilespy could get relief through medicinal marijuana.

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 Skelos predicted the measure will sail through the politically split Senate with “substantial” Republican support, though he declined to say how many of the 29 GOP senators would be in favor.

“It’s going to pass,” Skelos said. The Senate is set to return to the chamber at 10 a.m. Friday.

The Democrat-dominated Assembly, which said it would work through the night instead of leaving and returning Friday, expected to easily pass the bill.

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Lawmakers said they will adjourn the regular 2014 session Friday.

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