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Neon sign at a medical marijuana dispensary in California. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/28402283@N07/3410000930/">Chuck Coker</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Neon sign at a medical marijuana dispensary in California. Photo: Chuck Coker, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

What will medical marijuana look like in New York state?

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Governor Cuomo delivers his State of the State address later today. He's expected to announce an executive action permitting limited access to medical marijuana in New York. There are still a lot of questions about how the program will work.

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Sarah Harris
Reporter and Producer

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Governor Cuomo plans to revive a 1980 provision in New York public health law that allows for limited medical marijuana use. Twenty hospitals across the state – we don’t know which yet – will act as dispensaries, and the drug will only be available to patients with serious diseases.

There are still a lot of logistical questions that need to be answered: about who gets covered, how the program will work, and where New York state will get its medical marijuana supply.

Gabriel Sayegh is director of the New York branch of the Drug Policy Alliance.

He says Cuomo’s getting the ball rolling.

"It does begin the process as establishing medical marijuana in New York and in fact it’s going to make medical marijuana in New York a fact of life. We still need to pass legislation in the state to ensure that the comprehensive system that patients need is in place and available to patients throughout the state."

Franklin County Sherriff Kevin Mulverhill says it’s not yet clear what Cuomo’s new measure means for law enforcement. 

But he says he’s still wary.

"The population as a whole kind of starts leaning towards, ‘well it can’t be that bad, if we’re allowing to be used in hospitals and dispensed here and there,’ and I think it leads us down a slippery slope."

Governor Cuomo doesn’t support passing a new law to legalize medical marijuana use. He told reporters earlier this week that he favors a limited approach – it means more control.

The legislature, meanwhile, is divided about taking further action.  

The Assembly passed two marijuana-related bills in 2013, but they didn’t make it through the Senate.

Medical marijuana supporters Frank and Annie McLaughlin live outside of Canton. For them, marijuana goes far beyond the political.  

"If you look at the history of this weed, for thousands and thousands of years human societies have used it as medication, have used it as a product for their homes, and for all kinds of productive work," Frank McLaughlin said.

"Millions of people use this plant– it’s a mild euphoric," Annie adds. "Why keep this from people?"

Cuomo is scheduled to make his announcement about medical marijuana during the State of the State address this afternoon.

 

NCPR’s coverage  of the State of the State address begins at 1 pm, with a conversation looking back at 2013 and ahead to what the North Country can expect. Join Martha Foley and Brian Mann at 1 pm, with the Governor’s speech beginning at 1:30 pm.

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