Montel, Manhattan DA back medical marijuana

June 14, 2004

Samuel Maull, Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau joined television talk show host Montel Williams on Tuesday in expressing support for the legalization of marijuana for medical uses in New York.

'It should be available to those whose suffering would be eased by the use of marijuana,' the district attorney said. 'There is absolutely no reason for not using marijuana for medical purposes. It's another weapon in the arsenal.'

Morgenthau said he supported a marijuana legalization bill that has been introduced in the state Legislature by Assemblyman Richard Gottfried.

Williams, diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1999, choked back tears as he said he uses marijuana to relieve pain in his legs and feet caused by the crippling neurological disease. 'There are days I don't feel like getting out of bed,' he said.

Morgenthau said he came to support medical marijuana after doing research and talking to his daughter, a physician who specializes in treating drug abusers. He said he asked her whether marijuana had valid medical uses and she replied 'absolutely.'

The prosecutor said patients who use marijuana are often able to ease effects such as the nausea that follows chemotherapy, the loss of appetite and tissue wasting that follows use of some medications, and the symptoms of glaucoma and MS.

Williams, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a former Naval officer for 12 years, said he started using marijuana on his doctor's recommendation. He said he had tried other prescription painkillers but they failed to control his tremors and spasms and caused side effects. 'Marijuana works for me,' he said.

Williams, since 1991 the Emmy award-winning host of his own syndicated talk show, said marijuana does not incapacitate him in any way. He said he is almost immune to its euphoric effects but still benefits from its therapeutic effects.

Morgenthau and Williams both noted that 10 states already allow the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes _ Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. Williams also said medicinal marijuana is permitted in Canada, Britain and Holland.

'Why is it that doctors in California can ease my pain and doctors is New York can't?' Williams asked. 'I am a card-carrying prescription marijuana user in Canada and California.'

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