ALBANY — New York is poised to become the 23rd state to legalize medical marijuana.
Under the deal Gov. Cuomo and legislative Democrats announced Thursday, patients won’t be able to smoke the drug — instead, they’ll have to ingest it as food or through vaporization, oils or pills.
Cuomo, citing the state’s efforts to combat smoking, would not sign off on a deal unless it contained the ban on puffing.
“Medical marijuana has the capacity to do a lot of good for a lot of people who are in pain and suffering,” Cuomo said.
“At the same time, medical marijuana is a difficult issue because there are risks to public health and safety that have to be averted. I believe this bill is the right balance,” he said.
The Assembly was scheduled to to pass the bill in the predawn hours Friday and the Senate is expected to vote on it later in the day.
The Senate sponsor, Diane Savino (D-Staten Island), gave in on the smoking ban.
“If that becomes the only thing that stands in the way, you can’t say no to that,” she said.
Cuomo, who pushed a more limited program in January, said he decided to support a broader bill after winning safeguards.
Among them is a provision that the governor can suspend the program at any time on the advice of the health commissioner or state police superintendent.
Critics fear the measure will lead to the legalization of recreational pot.
The bill allows medical marijuana to treat 10 serious illnesses and conditions, including cancer, HIV and AIDS, Lou Gehrig’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases, epilepsy, some spinal cord injuries and multiple sclerosis.
Only doctors will be able to prescribe the drug, and they will have to be trained and certified by the state. Patients will have to register with the state.
The bill makes it a felony for a doctor to knowingly prescribe medical marijuana to someone not eligible.
The law won’t go into effect for at least 18 months as the Department of Health develops regulations on dosage amounts, certifies doctors and licenses five organizations to grow and distribute the medical marijuana.
Assembly bill sponsor Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan), who has pushed the issue for nearly two decades, hailed the victory.
“If the patient and physician agree that a severe debilitating or life-threatening condition should be treated with medical marijuana, it is cruel for government to stand in the way,” Gottfried said.