State senator introduces bill to legalize medical marijuana in New York

May 11, 2005

Eric Gross , Putnam county Courier

State Sen. Vincent Leibell has introduced a bill in Albany to legalize marijuana for medical purposes. Speaking from the floor of the Senate Tuesday, Leibell told the Putnam County Courier such legislation is already in effect in a dozen other states across America.

If approved by his colleagues in the Senate and Assembly and signed into law by Gov. George Pataki, the measure would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana to patients with life-threatening, degenerative or permanently disabling conditions.

"I am not talking about the "decriminalization of pot. The legislation is aimed for a narrow segment of our population under closely controlled medical standards. I propose the use of medicinal marijuana for those people who are seriously ill and have no other type of relief," he said.

The Republican Leibell and the bill's co-sponsor Democrat Assembly Health Committee Chairman Richard Gottfried of Manhattan received testimony and sworn statements from numerous individuals indicating that marijuana was the only drug that gave them relief.

Leibell called the legislation "a compassionate road to travel."

Barbara, a resident of Carmel, underwent massive doses of chemotherapy and radiation last year as a result of a malignancy. "My second regiment of chemotherapy resulted in constant nausea. I don't ever remember being so sick. The cancer was being addressed but my system was ravaged by vomiting," she recalled.

A family member provided her with several marijuana cigarettes. "I was leery at first to even light up since I never smoked. However, once I took a 'hit' from the cigarette, the nausea instantly disappeared. It was amazing," she said.

Oncologist Dr. Anup Das of Carmel endorsed Leibell's proposal. "From a medical point, I have no problem with it. If marijuana helps a patient, let him or her be able to use it," he said.

Das said other drugs exist for nausea and vomiting. "However, if a patient wants to use marijuana to alleviate the problems associated with cancer eradication, they should have the right to do so. A patient should not be denied the drug," he said.

Leibell forecast once signed into law the legislation would assist thousands of people across the state.

"If people are uninformed and don't realize that the bill is aimed at a narrow group then it becomes a political problem. I am in no way, shape or form proposing that marijuana for recreational use become legalized. The New York State Medical Society has endorsed the bill as have New York's nurses. Even the deans of New York's 17 medical schools recognize that medical marijuana was another tool for our medical profession to employ in terms of pain management and in some cases controlling symptoms," he said.

Joining Leibell in Albany for the announcement was TV talk show host Montel Williams. Williams is prescribed medical marijuana by a California doctor to help him cope with multiple sclerosis. Williams also urged Gov. Pataki and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno to follow the other states that have legalized marijuana for medical purposes.

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