Times Union: Yes, marijuana, as medicine

Thomas K. Duane

March 03, 2010

Imagine, an open and honest debate in the state Senate, and on a very relevant and substantive issue. What happens all too rarely could happen quite soon, on the topic of legalizing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

The Senate Health Committee voted for such a bill last Tuesday. That puts the fate of legislation, sponsored by Thomas Duane, a Manhattan Democrat, in the hands of the Senate Codes Committee. One more committee vote, then, and the benefits of smoking marijuana for victims of cancer, arthritis and HIV and AIDS could be argued and then acted upon by the entire Senate membership.

That's right. Every senator would be called upon to vote, and on a measure that enjoys widespread public acceptance.

A Quinnipiac University poll last month found New Yorkers were supportive of the legal use of marijuana for medicinal purposes by a margin of 71 percent to 25 percent.

The regulated use of marijuana, upon a doctor's prescription, should be legal. The lives of people who suffer from chronic pain, seizures, gastronintestinal illness and mood disorders would most likely be notably better.

Medicinal marijuana almost was legal once in New York. The Legislature actually passed such a law, that then-Gov. Hugh Carey signed, in 1980. The one reasonable stipulation, though, was that the state had to appoint a review board to rule on doctors' requests to prescribe marijuana. It never did.

Oh, the ways legislation and even laws can die in New York. More recently, the favored way to keep marijuana away from the people who could benefit from it was to keep such a bill from coming to a vote in the Senate.

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