New York governor's new is stance praised, but some worry patients will get mired in red tape.

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WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- Even as New York patients and their families celebrate Gov. Andrew Cuomo's decision to legalize medical marijuana, they worry how the state will strike a balance between regulation and access.

"Our main concern is who will qualify for the program and what kind of supply will be available," said Kate Hintz, of North Salem, N.Y., whose 2-year-old daughter, Morgan, has a severe form of epilepsy that causes profound developmental disabilities and frequent seizures. "Will the people who need it be able to get it or will they just get caught up in red tape?"

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Her family has been advocating for access to an oil-based form of marijuana that is low in the chemical that makes users high and rich in a compound that appears to calm seizures.

Cuomo has released few details of how a program would work other than to say that 20 hospitals in the state will dispense the drug for qualified patients with specific conditions, which he has not detailed. He will officially announce the plan in his State of the State address Wednesday.

Kevin Dahill, president of the Northern Metropolitan Hospital Association, thinks that academic and specialty hospitals will probably dispense medical marijuana.

"I would imagine that the hospitals that do a lot of cancer work will be most interested," he said.

Twenty states plus the District of Columbia allow medical marijuana for patients with conditions such as cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. They differ in how they regulate and manage distribution.

"New York has an opportunity to be a shining example," said Josh Stanley, who runs marijuana dispensaries in Colorado and who has cultivated a strain of the plant that has reportedly miraculous effects on epilepsy, including the type with which Morgan is diagnosed. "But I hope people aren't clapping their hands a little too early."

Cancer patients have long supported access to medical marijuana.

Chappaqua, N.Y., resident Leslie Pierson went through radiation treatment after she was diagnosed with breast cancer more than a year ago. And while she didn't need marijuana to control her pain or the side effects of treatment, she could see how others might.

"Anything that makes a cancer patient feel better should be made available," said Pierson. "If it's medically necessary and legal, why not?"

People with Parkinson's disease also have been known to benefit from medical marijuana.

Deane Houser, of Airmont, N.Y., whose 9-year-old daughter Amanda testified at a legislative hearing last month in favor of medical marijuana to treat her epilepsy, cheered Cuomo's decision.

But he is not waiting to see how medical marijuana plays out in New York. He is making plans to move to Colorado to get the special, oil-based cannabis for his daughter.

"Who knows how long they will take to work this out," he said. "We can't wait forever."

It can be tricky to craft rules that strike a balance between regulation and access, said Morgan Fox, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group.

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"I can't see anywhere where marijuana is going to be legal — like a tomato," he said. "But sometimes these medical marijuana programs are a little too restrictive."

The experience in two neighboring states — Connecticut and New Jersey — show the potential pitfalls of medical marijuana laws.

Brian Wilson of Scotch Plains, N.J., made news in August when he cornered Gov. Chris Christie at a public event and pleaded with him in front of cameras to save the life of his 2-year-old daughter by enacting long-stalled medical marijuana legislation.

Weeks later, Christie loosened the state's laws — slightly.

But not enough to help Vivian Wilson, her father said Monday as his family, too, prepares to move to Colorado to obtain the specially cultivated cannabis.

There are only three licensed dispensaries in New Jersey and none of them carry the strain that his daughter needs, he said. The process to get the child certified took months and never enabled her to get the drug.

Rockland, N.Y., businessman David Kimmel has spent years doing research and development on medicinal cannabis.

Kimmel is applying for a license to dispense medical marijuana in Connecticut. But there is resistance to the idea in communities that don't want a marijuana dispensary in their midst.

"There's a lot of historical baggage associated with the word marijuana," said Kimmel. "It scares people — they are fearful that their communities will be overtaken by drug dealers."

Even so, he thinks the problems can be overcome.

"At the end of the day, this is still good news for the patients," Kimmel said. "For them it's all about getting their quality of life back."

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