New York Governor Andrew Cuomo attends Madison Square Garden's announcement of Billy Joel as their first-ever music franchise and adds May 9th show with exclusive pre-sale for Citi customers at Madison Square Garden on December 3, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)
ALBANY, N.Y. -- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will announce plans to legalize medical marijuana through an executive order, according to a published report Saturday.
Cuomo is expected to legalize medical marijuana on a limited basis at 20 hospitals for specific conditions, the New York Times reported Saturday evening. Cuomo will make the announcement during his State of the State address on Wednesday, the newspaper said, citing unnamed state officials.
The move would be a shift for Cuomo, who is up for re-election in November. As recently as April, he voiced opposition to the idea, questioning whether it could be properly regulated. But he also has said that he would keep an open mind on the issue, saying it is an "evolving one."
"I do not support medical marijuana. I understand the pros and cons. I understand the argument," the Democratic governor told reporters then. "We are looking at it, but at this point, I don't support medical marijuana."
Twenty states have legalized medical marijuana, and Colorado on Wednesday began allowing recreational marijuana use.
There was no immediate comment from Cuomo's office on the report.
The legalization of medical marijuana has repeatedly passed the Democratic-led Assembly, but has failed in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Democratic state Sen. Diane Savino said Saturday she was aware that Cuomo was expected to take a pro-medical marijuana stance in his address. She hailed his change in position.
"I think under his leadership, we can probably have the best, most-regulated, tightest-controlled system in the nation that provides real help for patients," she said.
The Times reported Cuomo is expected to use a provision in the public health law that allows the state health commissioner to approve controlled substances for patients with certain diseases.
State Conservative Party chairman Mike Long knocked Cuomo's stance, saying he should focus on the economy and the weak growth in the state's population.
"Instead of dealing with social issues that appeal to his liberal base, he would be best doing all New Yorkers a favor and get New York back on track," Long said Saturday.
Spector reports for the Gannett Albany (N.Y.) Bureau