Potential deal on medical marijuana, but would ban smoking

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Assemb. Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) and state Sen. Diane Assemb. Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) and state Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island) walk up a staircase after meeting with Gov. Andrew Cuomo at the Capitol on Thursday, June 19, 2014, in Albany. Savino and Gottfried are both sponsors of the so-called Compassionate Care Act regarding the legalization of medical marijuana. Photo Credit: AP / Mike Groll

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State lawmakers said Thursday that they are “very close” to a compromise that would legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes for the first time in New York.

But the law might carry a big restriction: no smoking. The drug would be available only through other forms, such as oils and vaporizers. Additionally, lawmakers are considering authorizing medical marijuana for just seven years and would evaluate the program after that.

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The development came after key legislators huddled with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo -- who has opposed medical marijuana, especially in “smokable” form -- for about an hour Thursday, which is the last scheduled day of the 2014 legislative session.

The legislators emerged to say they have whittled down their differences with the governor and hope to review a proposed compromise later in the day.

A source said Cuomo wasn’t budging on the smoking issue and that the State Legislature might have to accept that prohibition in order to make a deal that rank-and-file legislators can vote on.

Key lawmakers avoided talking about specifics after the negotiating session but sounded more buoyant than ever before.

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“I think we all want to do everything we can to get an agreement early in the day so people can get a chance to look at it before we’re voting on it,” said Assemb. Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan), longtime sponsor of the medical marijuana bill in the Assembly. “I think we’re very optimistic.”

Lawmakers could stay till Friday to vote.

“We’re making very substantive progress and we hope to have everything wrapped up as soon as we possibly can,” added Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island), chief State Senate sponsor.

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