Gov. Andrew Cuomo is catching up with legislative and popular opinion by taking steps to legalize medical marijuana in New York, lawmakers and analysts said yesterday.
The initiative also allows the Democrat to continue to stake out a position as liberal on social issues while fiscally conservative. Cuomo is to unveil proposals for tax cuts and medicinal marijuana in his State of the State address Wednesday.
Cuomo’s office said he plans to use administrative powers rather than legislative action to allow a limited number of hospitals to dispense marijuana for some ailments. About 20 hospitals would participate.
Lawmakers said Cuomo has done a 180-degree turn in his thinking.
“Last year, he was ‘absolutely not,’” said Sen. Diane Savino of Staten Island, the lead sponsor of a bill to legalize marijuana for medical uses. “Twelve months later, he’s moving forward. ... This is a huge sea change in his thinking.”
In April, Cuomo said he had concerns about the government’s ability to regulate medical marijuana.
“I do not support medical marijuana. I understand the pros and cons. I understand the argument,” the governor had said. “We are looking at it, but at this point, I don’t support medical marijuana.” A Siena poll last year showed 82% of New Yorkers approved of allowing terminally ill patients to use marijuana.