Seven years ago, state lawmakers approved a bill for New York medicinal marijuana bill. Soon after the measure passed, state Sen. Diane Savino said it was only a matter of time before a full legalization bill would be approved.
It took seven years.
"I'm surprised it took this long in a state that prides itself on being progressive," Savino said. "But if you'll remember back then I told you New York is progressive on a lot of things, but not drug policy."
Savino was one of the main architects of the medical marijuana law. Now, as lawmakers are set to fully legalize cannabis products in New York, the medical marijuana industry is also being bolstered.
"It's going to allow them access into the adult-use market on a limited scale," she said. "So they'll be allowed to participate in the future, but not dominate."
The original measure approved in 2014 was narrowly defined, limiting prescription-based cannabis to only a handful of severe ailments. At the time, a skeptical Gov. Andrew Cuomo pointed to a provision that amounted to a kill switch if the program was being abused and granting him the authoriy to shut it down.
Medicinal marijuana advocates over the last seven years have tried to slowly expand the measure to include more illnesses.
But as legalization takes shape, lawmakers are taking some of the most sweeping steps for the medicinal industry as well.
A major component for medicinal marijuana businesses is the ability to co-locate in some limited circumstances. In other words, allowing a medical marijuana business to operate a dispensary for the rest of the population.
Those changes allow practitioners to prescribe medicinal marijuana for any condition deemed appropriate and allow the use of whole flour, which is more affordable have also been cheered by medical cannabis advocates.
"Between those two reforms alone and codifying the rest of this program, we've put medical patients in a stronger footing than they've been in New York in quite some time," said Ngiste Abebe of the Medical Cannabis Industry Association
There are still changes to medicinal marijuana that will likely be sought, and more work to be done for the industry with the enactment of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act.
"I think there will still be some hurdles ahead," Abebe said. "This is one bill. There's a whole lot that needs to be interpreted in regulation. This is a major milestone. But the work is by no means over to improve the medical program."
Savino agrees there will still be changes to consider for too very different sides of the cannabis coin.
"We're trying to approach this from creating a new economy, creating new access to patients and new medicine and science and a new agriculture industry," she said.