Republicans back use of pot if prescribed by physicians

May 10, 2005

John Milgrim, Ottaway News Service

 Albany – New York's law and order Republicans said yesterday it's high time marijuana be made available for patients in pain.    The new support from Senate Republican leaders gives legalizing medical marijuana its best chance ever in New York, but Gov. George Pataki, whose sights are set on a 2008 presidential bid, won't commit to the plan. If passed, New York would be the 13th state in the country allowing doctors to prescribe pot.

   'I support it personally, yes I do, but with the proper constraints,' Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, R-Brunswick, said.

   Sen. Vincent Leibell, a Westchester Republican and former prosecutor, said he plans to submit a bill by next week to allow the use of marijuana for medical reasons. It would be the first Senate introduction of such a bill by a member of the majority party.

   The bill would allow New York doctors to prescribe pot for patients suffering life-threatening, degenerative or disabling diseases, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis or AIDS.

   Federal law prohibits the possession of marijuana, but the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule soon on whether states have the right to allow doctors to prescribe it as medication.

   'I know it helped my son so much. It made such a difference,' said Monticello's Mildred Kaitz, who gained notoriety for growing marijuana for her multiple sclerosis-stricken son. Kaitz, now 91, was arrested in 1993 for growing pot.

   Assemblyman Tom Kirwan, R-C-Newburgh, a former state police investigator, became an outspoken proponent of medical marijuana last year. Sen. John Bonacic, R-C-Mount Hope, supports the plan as long as there are strict controls.

   The Democrat-controlled Assembly has passed a medical marijuana bill in committee each year since 1997 but never sent it to the floor for a vote.

   'If the Senate is willing to go, I think a very narrow bill is something we could do,' Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said. 'If we can do it, we might help some people.'

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