Cuomo's Inaction Could Kill Medical Marijuana in New York

Last week, after years of back-and-forth, it looked like New York might finally pass medical marijuana. Governor Andrew Cuomo, who opposed the idea as recently as last year, was basically on board, and the Compassionate Care Act had already passed the state Assembly. All that was left was the Senate, where the bill reportedly had more than enough support.

Now, everything might be crashing down. It started this morning in the New York Daily News, where Cuomo aides leaked a laundry list of the governor's problems with the bill — chiefly that it doesn't bar smoking weed (as opposed to vaporizing or THC pills) or sharing among patients. The governor also wants lowered doses, a restricted list of eligible diseases, and a five-year sunset period on the law before he'll consider passing it.

He doubled down on his doubts in an interview with WNYC today, telling Capitol Pressroom host Susan Arbetter he will not "be part of a system that's just going to wreak havoc." If medical marijuana isn't done right, he added, "it is a public safety and public health disaster."

Cuomo has not been entirely unsupportive of cannabis in the past: In January, he announced a pilot program that would allow 20 hospitals around the state to distribute the plant, and patients to ingest it however they'd like — including smoking. Why is he changing his tune?

Diane Savino, the Democrat who sponsored the Compassionate Care Act in the Senate, called Cuomo out for the inconsistency today. From NY State of Politics:

"Under his plan he supports smoking… there's an inconsistency," she said on The Capitol Pressroom, adding Cuomo's problems are "disingenuous."

She added a counter proposal from the governor's office hasn't been made available, and suggested Cuomo's office is now negotiating the bill through the press after details of Cuomo's problems with the bill leaked.

"You need to be serious in your approach," Savino said. "We've been waiting since Friday for language; we haven't gotten any."

The changes the governor wants aren't surprising, even if the "no smoking" rule will make potheads balk. They're the kinds of small tweaks that happen to most bills on their way to becoming laws — which wouldn't be a problem if the timing were different.

New York's legislative session ends this week, meaning if Cuomo can't find a compromise within the next few days, it's another year without medical marijuana.

Is the governor playing a game here? Raising objections at the eleventh hour could allow him to kill the bill without taking decisive action against it, covering his ass against criticism from the right while maintaining his status as a good liberal — exactly the kind of political cover he'll need if he decides to run for president.

[Image via AP]