Jun 23, 2014 — The sponsor of the successful medical marijuana measure in the Senate, Sen. Diane Savino, says she's "gratified" by the larger-than-expected number of yes votes, and hopes the new law ha wider repercussions.
Some of those votes were surprises, from traditionally conservative Senators.
Savino says she hopes the wide support can serve to make the vote in New York, the 23rd state to legalize medical marijuana, a tipping point for the federal government to change its policies against the drug.
"We are a watershed state," said Savino. "As New York goes, so goes the nation."
Savino also addressed concerns that the measure has too many restrictions- the smoking of the drug is prohibited- and will take too long (18 months) to implement. She says if it were up to her, she'd start the program tomorrow, but says the time is needed to do it right.
Health Committee Chair Senator Kemp Hannon was among those voting no. He cited concerns over lack of medical evidence on the effectiveness of marijuana treatments, and no FDA approval. He says heath department bureaucrats are going to make too many unqualified decisions and will take too long.
"Give me a break," Hannon said. "We're not helping the people who came to ask us for help."
Sen. John De Francisco says the law stands in contradiction to bills passed earlier in the week by the legislature cracking down on heroin addiction.
"This is the wrong message," DeFrancisco said. "Yesterday or the day before we passed 11 bills because of this tragic heroin condition."
Those who voted in favor agree the bill is flawed, but they say many people are suffering from debilitating diseases, and they don't want to say no to something that could help them. Senator Liz Krueger represents portions of the Upper East Side of Manhattan, home to some of the nation's top cancer hospitals.
"I'm assuming there are a decent number of doctors in this state who secretly whisper, 'you might try this if you can get some'," Krueger said.
Even advocates say the law has problems, but say they will work to improve it.