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Cuomo softens stance on legalizing medical marijuana

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on May 14, 2014 in

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on May 14, 2014 in Tarrytown, New York. Credit: Getty Images / Andrew Burton

ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo softened his stance on legalizing medical marijuana somewhat Monday, while a key legislator said she expects a vote on the issue in the next two weeks.

Cuomo, a Democrat who is running for re-election, said he would sign medical marijuana legislation if it has controls that "make sense." It was the latest shift for Cuomo, who once was a clear opponent.

Cuomo earlier this year promised to launch a research program, saying he preferred that approach to a more expansive proposal backed by many legislators.

The Democratic-led Assembly approved a medical marijuana bill last month and is now negotiating with the politically split Senate to reach a compromise both houses can support. State Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island) has said she was "very confident" the Senate will vote on a bill before summer adjournment, set for June 19.

Cuomo said he could support medical marijuana legislation with some adjustments, but didn't define the controls he considers proper.

"If their piece of legislation, the legislation makes sense, then I would sign it because I support the overall effort," Cuomo said during an event Monday in Dutchess County.

Savino said she and Assemb. Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan), the two key sponsors of medical marijuana legislation, met last week to hash out the differences between their proposals. Savino's bill differs from Gottfried's in that it lists 20 specific diseases or conditions that would be eligible for treatment with medical marijuana and prohibits anyone younger than 21 from smoking marijuana, though it could be prescribed in other forms.

Time is running short for medical-marijuana supporters, though Savino and advocates say a majority of senators support the issue.

Senate Finance Committee chair John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) told several news media outlets he would try to block Savino's bill in his committee. Other Republicans said such a move wouldn't necessarily kill it.

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