Will NY Legalize Medical Pot? As Polls Show Strong Support, NY Judge/Medical Pot User Advocates for Safe Access

As New York state legislators hurry to legalize medical marijuana, a new poll by Sienna College  shows that the majority of New York state voters support medical access. While 57% of voters say they support the use of medical marijuana in New York, only 33% said they oppose it.  The results were consistent across almost all demographics, including religion, age, race, and region, except for Republicans, who at 46% in opposition to legalizing medical marijuana (and 42% in support), were the only demographic against it.

New York state legislators are engaged in a bipartisan effort to legalize medical marijuana this legislative session, but Governor Andrew Cuomo has complained more about possible “risks” than he has spoken for medical benefits.

The bill has the support, however, of Kings County Supreme Court Justice Gustin L. Reichbach. In an emotional essay in the New York Times, Justice Reichbach explained why for cancer patients like him, safe access to medical marijuana “is not a law-and-order issue,” but rather a “medical and a human rights issue.”

He explained that marijuana, better than any legal alternative, relieves symptoms associated with his pancreatic cancer, and some of its treatments. He uses it regularly, he said, because it works.

“Inhaled marijuana is the only medicine that gives me some relief from nausea, stimulates my appetite, and makes it easier to fall asleep,” he said.

Justice Reichbach also  said that the legal, synthetic THC pill Marinol his doctors prescribed “was useless.”

“At some personal risk,” he said, his friends provided him with marijuana, “Rather than watch the agony of my suffering.”

Justice Reichbach said that, while admitting his marijuana use may be considered risky, speaking out is crucial:

Given my position as a sitting judge still hearing cases, well-meaning friends question the wisdom of my coming out on this issue. But I recognize that fellow cancer sufferers may be unable, for a host of reasons, to give voice to our plight. It is another heartbreaking aporia in the world of cancer that the one drug that gives relief without deleterious side effects remains classified as a narcotic with no medicinal value.

He added, "Medical science has not yet found a cure, but it is barbaric to deny us access to one substance that has proved to ameliorate our suffering."

While the poll may throw some weight behind medical marijuana legislation in New York State, the will of the people is often disrespected by federal prosecutors. On Wednesday, a nationwide poll revealed that 74 percent of Americans, including a majority of Republicans, think Obama should respect state marijuana laws. The Obama Administration, however, stood idly as federal prosecutors raided more than 200 medical marijuana dispensaries, making his record for safe access worse than George Bush’s.  

AlterNet / By Kristen Gwynne

Posted at May 17, 2012, 10:32am

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