New York May Be Next in Line to Legalize Medical Marijuana

New Jersey’s passage of a bill legalizing medical marijuana brought new hope to dope in New York State.

The New York Assembly’s Committe on Health passed a similar bill Tuesday morning, paving the way for an eventual vote on the Assembly floor.

Manhattan Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, who has unsuccessfully sponsored the medicinal marijuana legalization bill for the past 12 years, is optimistic that this year things might be different.

“Every time a state approves a medical marijuana law, it helps advance the issue every where else,” the Assemblyman said. “The fact that New Jersey is our neighboring state will be very helpful.”

New Jersey is primed to become the 14th state to legalize marijuana for medicinal use. The Garden State’s medical marijuana bill passed in the state Assembly and Senate and is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Jon Corzine before he leaves office on Jan. 19.

Gottfried expects the New York bill to reach the Assembly floor within the month. He believes that the bill will face a greater challenge when it advances to the Senate, where there is a virtual split between Democrats — who traditionally look more favorably on medical marijuana usage — and Republicans.

“I think the problem is that elected officials are extremely wary of doing anything that anybody might think means that they are ‘soft on drugs’,” Gottfried said.

Like the New Jersey bill, New York’s bill would require that marijuana retailers be licensed by the state, and would forbid people from growing it at home.

Daniel J. O’Donnell, another Manhattan Assembly Member, co-sponsored the Assembly bill with Gottfried.

“I am hopeful that New York will soon join New Jersey and the thirteen other states that allow the medical use of marijuana,” O’Donnell said in e-mailed comments. “The thousands of New Yorkers currently struggling with chronic medical conditions deserve this relief.”

“It is just outrageous that we deny this relief,” Gottfried said, adding that he was envious that the New Jersey legislature was able to pass the bill.

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