New York Becomes 23rd State to Legalize Medical Marijuana

The drug will be for severely ill patients, and won't be available in a smokable plant form

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    NBC Bay Area
    Medical marijuana is seen inside a marijuana dispensary in San Jose, California, June 11, 2014.

    New York has become the 23rd state in the U.S. to authorize medical marijuana — though the state's program is one of the nation's most restrictive.

    Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the measure into law on Saturday and held a formal signing ceremony on Monday to highlight the new law.

    When the program gets up and running in about 18 months, patients with diseases including AIDS, cancer and epilepsy will be able to obtain non-smokeable versions of the drug.

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    Instead, the drug must be ingested or administered through a vaporizer or oil base.

    Cuomo, a Democrat, says prohibiting smokeable marijuana will help keep the drug out of the wrong hands.

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    The compromise was one of the final measures passed by lawmakers before they adjourned last month.

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