Marijuana use gains momentum

May 10, 2005

James Franco, Troy Record

ALBANY - By endorsing the idea, state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno gave the possibility of legally using marijuana for medicinal reasons in New York a big boost Tuesday.
'The Legislature needs to enact a medicinal marijuana law that allows the drug to be used in tightly controlled instances with a doctor's supervision and that is compassionate toward patients who are desperate to ease their pain,' Bruno said after appearing at an event with talk show host and medicinal marijuana proponent Montel Williams. 'As a cancer survivor, I understand how difficult it is to live day to day with a painful, life-threatening illness.'

Bruno was diagnosed with and successfully treated for prostate cancer. Williams was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1999. He said marijuana is the only drug that provides relief from the excruciating pain in his legs and feet, and helps control the tremors and spasms that accompany the debilitating neurological disease that has no cure.

'Because I don't condone breaking any law, I would like to see all 50 states and the federal government decriminalize medical marijuana,' Williams said.
Williams owns property in California, one of eight states that allow people to get a prescription for marijuana.

While the move does have some support in the Assembly, it is not a popular idea among the Conservative Party or the governor's office.

'Our experts indicate there are FDA (Federal Drug Administration) approved legal alternatives that would provide the same medical benefit, if not better,' said state Health Department Spokesman Bill VanSlyke. 'We are no less sensitive to the pain and suffering people endure, but we have to make sure the decisions we make are the right ones for the patient.'

In a statement, the state Conservative Party said marijuana use chemically alters the brain and is considered a gateway drug to stronger drugs.

The statement goes on to say: 'Smoking crude marijuana is known to trigger attacks of manic depression, schizophrenia and memory loss. Moreover, an increase in teen suicides has been linked to marijuana, while persons under the influence of marijuana are 10 times more likely to be involved in fatal traffic collisions than persons driving under the influence of alcohol.'

Bruno, however, said the state has 'to move forward to the 21st century.'
'This is specific for those people who need the relief and with the constraints and restraints to monitor so that people who shouldn't get certified have access in any legal way,' he said. 'This is a specific application to provide relief to pain and suffering when no other medication will work as well.'

There are some legal technicalities between how the individual state laws would coincide with federal law, but Bruno said he thinks the wrinkles can be worked out.

'That is all we are asking. Let's talk about it on the national and state level and lets see if there is a way we can make this work,' Williams said.

The state's largest lobbying group of doctors, the Medical Society, has endorsed using marijuana for medicinal purposes.

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