ALBANY, N.Y. — The legalization of medical marijuana is one step closer to passage after the state Assembly once again approved the Compassionate Care Act 91 to 34.
Supporters believe the bill's final approval is the closest its ever been to a reality.
"I think we are touch and go, which is a lot closer than we've ever been. I'm optimistic, but sometimes close but no cigar," said Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan.
Roadblocks to its final passage remain in the state Senate, even as five Republican lawmakers – from all across Upstate – have announced their support for the bill. For starters, the legislation in the Senate has been amended several times, including limiting the number of manufacturers of medical marijuana to 20 and including age restrictions for when a patient can use the smoke-able form of the drug.
"There are some amendments in the Senate bill that I'd be perfectly comfortable with, some I'd rather not see, but might be doable if that's what gets a bill passed," Gottfried said.
Different versions of the medical marijuana bill have passed the Assembly before, but it has gained some Republican supporters, including Assemblyman Steve Katz, who was ticketed last year for marijuana possession on the state Thruway.
"Each of these different industries has the ability to create hundreds, if not thousands of new jobs," said Assemblyman Katz, R-Yorktown.
Other Republican lawmakers questioned whether medical marijuana would conflict with federal law.
"Usually when the state acts, it's because the federal government hasn't acted. Here, we might be in conflict with some federal laws and I'm not sure how that will work," said Assemblyman Will Barclay, R-Fulton.
An even bigger question mark is what Governor Andrew Cuomo will do if the medical marijuana bill comes to his desk. Cuomo late last year said he would create a more limited medical marijuana program out of an existing law which is yet to take shape. The governor has not said whether he'd sign the bill.