NYC Pols Stoke Debate on Medical Pot Use

February 23, 2004

Frank Lombardi, New York Daily News

The City Council is getting puffed up about marijuana.

After sitting on the shelf for nearly a year, a resolution calling on the state to legalize the medical use of marijuana got its first airing yesterday at a Health Committee hearing.

The measure had 13 sponsors before the session, but quickly picked up four more backers during the hearing.

Ann Wilson of the Bronx tearfully testified that her brother, John Holmberg, had used marijuana to ease the side-effects of chemotherapy to combat pancreatic cancer before dying two years ago at the age of 40.

'How can we deny marijuana to our friends and loved ones when it has the potential to ease their pain and possibly prolong their life?' Wilson asked.

The resolution urges the state Legislature to make New York the 10th state to enact laws setting up strict procedures for the sale and use of marijuana for medical treatment.

Its chief sponsor, Councilman Philip Reed (D-Manhattan), acknowledged after the hearing that he had tried marijuana after he was diagnosed with bone-marrow cancer eight years ago. His cancer is in remission.

'In my particular case, it did not relieve the symptoms of the overwhelming experience of chemotherapy,' he commented. 'But I know countless people where it has worked, and this compels me to make sure that we get this issue from underneath this cloud that anybody who supports this is a drug dealer.'

Councilwoman Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), chair of the Health Committee, said the hearing has put the issue 'front and center' in the Council. She wants to gauge the sentiments of the 51-member body before scheduling a vote, she added.



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