ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — People with AIDS and parents of children with severe epilepsy are pressuring Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign legislation giving critically ill patients early access to medical marijuana before New York’s new medical cannabis program begins.

Advocates for sped-up access say they’ll rally outside Cuomo’s Manhattan office Tuesday, the day before Cuomo’s deadline to sign or veto the bill.

Lawmakers passed the measure earlier this year after some patients and their families said that critically ill individuals shouldn’t have to wait any longer for the drug.

The state’s medical marijuana program could be operational as early as January _ 18 months after lawmakers approved it.

Cuomo hasn’t signaled what he plans to do with the legislation.

The New York law is stricter than those in other states. It does not allow the plant to be smoked or eaten, but instead dispensed in forms such as drops, capsules or vapor.

In July, the state selected five companies to operate the program. Each company will grow the pot in one location and then sell it at four other locations.

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