Baloney on medical marijuana

September 20, 2007

EDITORIAL, Times Herald-Record (NY)

There's a trick politicians use when they want to appear to be in favor of some issue that has strong public support. They craft legislation that suggests support but include a provision they know the other political party won't go for.

Senate Republicans are doing just that with medical marijuana. The Assembly approved a bill in June that allows people who are certified as seriously or terminally ill to grow and possess small amounts of marijuana, if recommended by a doctor. Nancy Calhoun of Blooming Grove and Tom Kirwan of Newburgh properly voted for the bill. The drug helps ease the chronic pain and nausea that accompany many serious illnesses.

Senate Republicans, including John Bonacic and Thomas Morahan, say they, too, support the idea but — and here's the poison pill — only if the system is controlled by doctors and the state. No "blanket giveaways," as Bonacic put it. The bill would have the state control distribution and, in effect, require a prescription from doctors. The problem is that the federal government labels marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning it can't be prescribed.

And the U.S. Justice Department under the Bush administration has been aggressive in going after doctors or government workers in states that have laws allowing what the Republican here suggest. This tends to make doctors wary of prescribing the drug.

This is not a war-on-drugs issue. Morahan, Bonacic and their GOP colleagues should trust the state's most seriously ill residents not to start dealing drugs from their death beds.



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