State senator: Clear majority backs legalizing medical marijuana

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ALBANY -- A "solid" 38 senators -- a clear majority -- back the legalization of medical marijuana in New York, a key senator claimed Tuesday.

"We have the votes," declared Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island) at a news conference attended by patients and nurses who advocate allowing those with debilitating or life-threatening conditions to use marijuana for medical purposes.

The key, Savino said, is getting Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) to allow the 63-member Senate to vote on the issue. Most Senate Republicans remain opposed to medical marijuana; Skelos' office declined to comment.

Supporters also have to persuade Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who reiterated his opposition Tuesday.

"At this point, I do not support medical marijuana," the governor said. "I understand the benefits. It's the risks."

Cuomo, separately, has advocated for decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana.

As the second half of the 2013 legislative session kicked off, Savino, Assemb. Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) and advocates said they will make a major push to pass a medical marijuana bill before lawmakers adjourn June 20.

They said they've crafted a bill based on the experiences of 19 other states that allow medical marijuana, while eliminating other states' mistakes.

Under their bill, the state would allow medical use of marijuana under a doctor's supervision, for patients with cancer and other severe debilitating or life-threatening conditions.

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A practitioner licensed to prescribe controlled substances would have to certify that a patient should be treated with the medical use of marijuana. Growers and dispensers would be taxed.

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