Advocates on medical marijuana: Maybe next year

Medical marijuana. (jcaminobernal via Flickr)
Tweet Share on Facebook Share on Tumblr Print

Earlier this month State Senator Diane Savino called the odds for its legalization "quite good." But medical marijuana remains illegal in New York State, and will for a while longer. 

"Not this session," Julie Netherland, deputy state director for the New York Office of the Drug Policy Alliance told me today, with resignation.

What happened?

"We knew there was certainly Republican opposition to the bill," she said. "We certainly heard that and knew about that. I’m assuming that had something to do with it, but I don’t know if that's the full story."

MORE ON CAPITAL

ADVERTISEMENT

This year, the state Assembly passed legislation legalizing medical marijuana.

The prospects seemed more promising than usual in the Senate too, since Savino, an "independent Democrat" and a member of the Senate's leadership team, was its chief sponsor.

The breakaway Independent Democratic Conference controls the Senate in partnership with the Republicans. 

Generally speaking, that arrangement requires that both the Republicans and Independent Democrats give their consent before any bill goes to the floor.

A senior Senate aide told me the leadership ultimately concluded there was no real point in bringing the bill to a vote without the governor's support, since it was his administration that would have to set up the new regulatory infrastructure.

"In fact, there was overwhelming support for medical marijuana and that didn't move forward, because the governor didn't want to do it," said Savino last night on NY1.

"On that theory, a legislature doesn’t need to exist," countered Manhattan senator Liz Krueger, a member of the regular Democratic conference. "Why would you try to pass bills in the legislature that were only the ones the governor said absolutely I want."

The governor's office had no comment.

I asked Netherland if she thought the bill would have passed the Senate if the Democrats were in control.

"I mean, possibly," she said. "I hate to make predictions about Albany."

"Our advocates are already talking about next year and our need for the bill has not diminished at all," she added.