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Debate over medical use of marijuana, lawmakers still undecided

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Rochester: Debate over medical use of marijuana, lawmakers still undecided
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State lawmakers will be back at work next week in Albany. Among the major bills still undecided is a measure to allow medical use of marijuana. Bill Carey has more.

On a chilly spring day, a handful of protesters gather on a street corner in Auburn.

Susan Rusinko, a Multiple Sclerosis patient, and friends want state lawmakers to approve medical use of marijuana.

"If it's not something you choose, think of your loved one. And wouldn't you want them to have a medication that works for them? That's my whole thought on it. It works," said Rusinko.

Just up the street from the protest, New York State Senator John DeFrancisco is holding office hours. After the State Senate's Health Committee approved the medical marijuana bill, it now must clear the Senate Finance Committee, which DeFrancisco chairs.

"We've got thousands of bills out there, many of which are pending in the Finance Committee, but what it's really going to end up being is a conference decision. What goes on the floor and what doesn't go on the floor," said Sen. John DeFrancisco, R-Syracuse.

With the end of the session within sight, DeFrancisco says he has problems with the legislation. The senator says Governor Cuomo's call for testing should be heard and FDA procedures should not be ignored.

"First of all, the testing, the FDA approval and also, this is a broad policy issue, whether more problems are going to occur as a result of this," said DeFrancisco.

DeFrancisco quotes those who treat people with drug problems who claim marijuana is a so-called "gateway drug" leading to other abuse problems.

"It's working for me. So this is what I'm using. It's not a gateway drug. I don't believe that. The only gateway it is, is a gateway to my new life," said Rusinko.

The proponents say the public backs their position. But, will it be enough to push through passage this year?

"I don't think so. I really don't think so. The leadership, especially, believes we should give the Cuomo situation a chance. Do some testing, so that we're not in a situation where we're going to do something that's going to cause more harm," said DeFrancisco.

Backers of the bill say they're prepared, either way. If the bill fails, they say the campaign goes on.

"It'll happen. I'll just keep fighting harder," said Rusinko.

A fight they've taken to street corners hoping to see a groundswell of public support.

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