Gottfried: Cuomo’s Plan ‘An Important Interim Step’

ALBANY (AP) -

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday he’s comfortable with his plan to allow a limited number of hospitals to dispense marijuana for severe ailments, even as other states loosen their laws more dramatically.

In his State of the State speech on Wednesday, Cuomo will formally announce plans to allow 20 hospitals to dispense the substance to people suffering from cancer and other selected diseases. He had previously opposed the allowance, saying the risks outweighed the benefits.

“It’s not a law, so it’s not the Legislature telling me what I have to do. And that gives me great comfort,” he said.

A bill to set up a statewide system regulating medical marijuana has been stalled in the Legislature for years, but the measure’s Assembly sponsor argued Monday that the law is still needed. Assemblyman Richard Gottfried called Cuomo’s move “an important interim step,” but said the 1980 law Cuomo relies on for his executive action is “limited and cumbersome.”

“There are many patients who could benefit from medical marijuana who cannot be helped under the 1980 law, such as children with severe epilepsy,” said Gottfried, a Manhattan Democrat.

Advocates argue that marijuana effectively mitigates pain, nausea and anxiety for people afflicted with cancer.

Opponents believe it opens the door to recreational use of the drug, which lasts for weeks in the bloodstream and can be addictive.