Unlike most other states, N.Y. will legalize pot for certain medical uses through an executive order.

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ALBANY, N.Y. — New York's governor said Monday that he changed his stance on medical marijuana in part because the state will have control over how the program is administered.

In his State of the State address Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans to announce the legalization of medical marijuana at 20 hospitals in New York and for limited diseases, such as cancer and glaucoma. He hasn't detailed the locations or the specific regulations, but he will do it through executive order rather than through a law passed in the state Legislature.

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Cuomo said having the state Department of Health oversee the program would allow the state to make any changes quickly if problems arise. Twenty states have legalized medical marijuana.

"I feel comfortable with this approach," Cuomo said. "Medical marijuana, I understand the upside. I also understand the downside. If you look at some of the states that have done marijuana, you'll see the downside clearly.

"What is the best way to initiate a process and learn about it and have the control so if you start to make a mistake, you can actually fix it? This mechanism, I think, affords us that."

Cuomo had opposed the legalization of medical marijuana during his first three years in office despite the measure passing four times in the Democratic-led Assembly. It didn't pass the Republican-controlled Senate, though, and now Cuomo is expected to bypass the Legislature and enact the regulations himself.

A 1980 New York law allows the state Health Department to approve controlled substances for patients with certain diseases.

"I'm not proposing a law," Cuomo said. "So it's not the Legislature telling me what I have to do. And that gives me great comfort, because if it goes bad, we can correct or improve all within our own control."

The state Conservative Party ripped the proposal.

"At a time when New York is hemorrhaging jobs and people, the governor should be focusing on loosening the restrictions that stifle job creation, loosening the taxes on real property and loosening the mandates on counties instead of loosening the restrictions on a substance that has no proven medical benefits," party chairman Mike Long said in a statement.

Spector reports for Gannett's Albany, N.Y., bureau.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Jan. 6, 2014, that he’s changed his stance on medical marijuana in part because the state Health Department can control over how the program is administered. Neeti Upadhye, The (Rochester, N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle

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