NEW YORK: Earlier this year, New York looked poised to become the 19th state to legalize medical marijuana. The state Assembly passed a bill by a 99-41 margin June 3. A Quinnipiac poll taken that week indicated that 70 percent of New Yorkers supported the idea. And in the state Senate, the Republicans who had blocked medical-marijuana measures the three times they’d passed the Assembly now retained power only by allying with five renegade Democrats—one of whom, Diane Savino of Staten Island, was the bill’s sponsor. Savino repeatedly said she believed she had enough votes to pass the bill, and would bring it to the floor when the right time came.
That time didn’t come. When the state Senate adjourned early in the morning of June 22, the bill had never reached the floor, despite the renegade Democrat faction’s leader, Jeffrey Klein, cosponsoring a more restrictive revised version. Another measure, to reduce the penalty for marijuana possession “in public view” from a misdemeanor to a $100 fine, also died without a vote in the Senate.
Activists and legislators say they don’t know exactly what happened. “The only thing we can conclude,” says Drug Policy Alliance state director Gabriel Sayegh, is that Klein couldn’t reach an agreement with Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos to allow a vote, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo did nothing to help.