Medical Marijuana Not Happening In Ny This Year

04.08.14 | Sarah Harnisch

The prospects aren't bright for passage of a medical marijuana bill in the Legislature this year, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said Monday.

Speaking to reporters inside of the Assembly chamber, Silver said there has been "no interest" from the Senate in bringing up the issue for a vote.

"I don't think it has a future in this session," Silver, D-Manhattan, said. "I don't think so. There was no interest from the other parties."

The Assembly's Democratic majority included a medical-marijuana plan in its one-house budget resolution, but the issue never gained traction in closed-door budget negotiations. The Legislature last week passed a $138 billion budget for the fiscal year that began last Tuesday.

In his State of the State address in January, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his administration will authorize medical pot on a limited basis, allowing up to 20 hospitals statewide to prescribe it to terminally ill patients. The Department of Health would use a 1980 law allowing the state to research experimental drugs to administer the program.

But advocates have pushed for the Compassionate Care Act, a bill that would more broadly legalize the drug for medical purposes and set up a system for growing, taxing and distributing it.

It likely would have the votes to pass in the Assembly, Silver said, and it has been picking up support in the Senate. But Silver cast doubt on whether the Senate would ultimately put it to a vote. The Assembly has passed similar measures in the past, including last June.

The bill's longtime Senate sponsor, Sen. Diane Savino, D-Staten Island, said she "wasn't aware (Silver) was elected to the Senate last week."

The legislation has gained support from a handful of Republicans, but it would be up to Senate Co-Leaders Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, and Jeff Klein, D-Bronx, to allow it to come to a vote.

"The fact of the matter is that each week, we continue to generate broad, bipartisan support for the Compassionate Care Act in the Senate, just as we have among the general public," Savino said in a statement. "The Compassionate Care Act is coming to New York, the only question is when."