ALBANY, N.Y. – New York is now the 23rd state in the country to authorize marijuana as a medical treatment — though the state will have one of the more restrictive programs in the U.S.
Under legislation signed into law on Saturday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, patients with one of 10 diseases will be able to obtain non-smokeable versions of the drug.
Instead, the drug must be ingested or administered through a vaporizer or oil base.
Cuomo, a Democrat, opposed allowing medical pot in plant form, saying the drug could have ended up in the wrong hands.
The compromise was one of the final measures passed by lawmakers before they adjourned last month. Cuomo is expected to hold a ceremonial bill signing for the legislation on Monday.
The first medication isn't expected to be available for at least 18 months as state regulators, physicians and potential distributors of the drug work to implement the new program.
Under the law, the state will approve and regulate up to five businesses authorized to grow and distribute the drug. The operators could each have up to four dispensaries statewide.
Patients would get prescriptions from physicians approved by the state to participate in the program. Approved conditions include AIDS, Lou Gehrig's disease, Parkinson's Disease, multiple sclerosis, certain spinal cord injuries, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathies and Huntington's Disease.
Cuomo is expected to hold a formal signing ceremony for the new law on Monday in New York City.