Lupardo, New Yorkers react to medical marijuana move

By Erika Mahoney

January 6, 2014 Updated Jan 6, 2014 at 7:38 PM EDT

(WBNG Binghamton) Days after Colorado made history and became the first state in the U.S.  to legally sell recreational marijuana, news that the Empire State could loosen medical marijuana laws stirs the pot.

On Saturday, the New York Times broke news that Governor Andrew Cuomo plans to discuss the move in his State of the State address Wednesday.

Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, who is a long-time supporter of controlled medical marijuana, commends the governor for taking a step in the right direction.

As confirmed by Lupardo, Governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to legalize limited use of medical marijuana through an executive action, or without the legislature's approval.

That is possible through a 1980 public health law called the Antonio G. Olivieri Controlled Substance Therapeutic Research Program. The law allows certain patients facing serious, health department-approved illnesses to use controlled substances.

"This is good news, the governor is recognizing the importance of medical marijuana for treating certain illnesses," Lupardo said.

Lupardo, the primary co-sponsor on the Compassion Care Act, which pushes for controlled medical marijuana legalization, says the act has passed multiple times in the state assembly, but not the state senate.

Thus the reason for Cuomo's executive action.

But Lupardo has concerns over the statute Cuomo is relying on to take executive action.

 "Under the statute the governor is using, the marijuana that would be used for this program would come from seizures from the federal government and local sources. The problem that some of us are having, those who are working on this issue, medical grade marijuana is a certain type of strain that is grown onto very, very tightly controlled indoor conditions."

Lupardo said she believes once the inactive takes effect, the state will have to allow locally grown marijuana, so the strains can be specific to certain illnesses, safe, and clean.

"Once we get into this, the governor will probably realize we are going to have to allow locally grown product," Lupardo said.

The challenge is that growing marijuana is illegal on both the state and federal levels.

But Lupardo said times are changing, even though the governor is embarking cautiously.

Lupardo said he plans to allow only 20 hospitals in New York to dispense it.

"So it's not going to be as large of a system as we will eventually see needed, but I think it's a great starting point, certainly, that indicates his willingness to move us in this direction."

Outside of the legislature, many New Yorkers are anxiously waiting Cuomo's State of the State and thinking about what legalization would mean for the Empire State.

"I'm going to watch how it plays out, I am not shocked or taken aback by the fact he is considering it," Tim Gleason said.

Gleason said he is torn on the issue because it could be a slippery slope: "Especially with pain, it seems to have some very good results, along with glaucoma and things they've been using it for years with the eyes. But it gets into kind of a moral question, whether it is right in general or not, but part of me thinks alcohol is a far more dangerous drug."

Binghamton resident Alana Mautone said she has reservations, but is for helping people who may benefit from it.

"I think there is a definite medical benefit to using marijuana, so long as it is properly regulated and kept out of the recreational use category, I would be for it," Mautone said.

If the legalization takes effect, New York would become the 21st state in the country to do so.

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