Pot war in Brooklyn!

June 21, 2007

Matthew Lysiak, The Brooklyn Paper

It’s the dude versus the narc.

Two Brooklyn lawmakers — one a former Soviet engineer, the other a former police officer — are hashing it out over a bill to make marijuana legal for medicinal use.

Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny (D–Coney Island) and state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge) have pushed themselves to the front of the debate, only days after the Assembly passed the legislation.

The Democratic Assemblyman believes that marijuana is so good as a painkiller that it must be available to New Yorkers who need it.

“This carefully crafted legislation reflects our compassion for those [with] chronic pain and suffering,” Brook-Krasny said. “Many controlled substances that are legal for medical use, including morphine, Valium and steroids, are otherwise illegal. It is inappropriate to allow physicians to prescribe powerful opiates, but not marijuana, to relieve pain.”

Golden disagrees: “It’s inappropriately timed,” said the former cop, who hit a morning talk show on Tuesday to get the message out.

“It’s the last five days of [the legislative] session and the last thing we have to be discussing here is medical marijuana.”

Other opponents say that patients already have access to legal drugs for pain and nausea, and worry that this bill would make it too easy for the drug to slip into the wrong hands.

But Brook-Krasny charged Golden with focusing on politics instead of the people.

“How can this be ‘inappropriately timed’ when there are seriously ill New Yorkers with life-threatening medical conditions?” an aide to Brook-Krasny asked. “If not now, then when would be the right time?”

The bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D–Manhattan), would allow patients suffering from cancer, AIDS, and other severe illnesses to possess up to two ounces of marijuana and up to 12 plants. Patients must be certified annually by a physician and register with the state.

The Senate was expected to vote it down on Thursday, after this edition went to press, much to Brook-Krasny’s disgust.

“Medical marijuana can be beneficial and effective for patients who don’t respond well to other medications,” he said.

The active ingredient in marijuana, THC, has been approved for medical use by the Federal Food and Drug Administration since 1986, though only in synthetic pill form. Consuming the drug in its natural form is more effective, but remains illegal under federal law.

New York would be the 13th state to approve a medical marijuana program. A similar measure recently passed the Connecticut legislature but was vetoed this week by Gov. Rell.

In 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana, but in New York, the bill could be nothing more than a puff of smoke. Even its staunchest supporter doesn’t think it will pass the Senate.

“No, this bill probably won’t become law,” said the Brook-Krasny aide. “But it is tremendous progress that is has even gotten this far.”

 



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