Pubdate: Wed, 12 Apr 2000
Source: Daily Gazette (NY)
Copyright: 2000 The Gazette Newspapers
Contact:  P.O. Box 1090, Schenectady, NY 12301-1090
Fax: (518) 395-3072
Author: Richard Schmitz
Note: The writer is director of state policies at the Marijuana Policy Project.


In 1980, the New York Legislature enacted a law creating a therapeutic
research program for medical marijuana. The program operated for four
years in the early 1980s, with close to 200 chemotherapy patients
receiving treatment. Since 1985, though, the program has been closed,
and as a result New York patients have had no legal access to medical

In an attempt to address this problem, bills to protect seriously ill
patients who need to use medical marijuana have been introduced in the
state Legislature. Until those bills become law, however, patients
will continue to risk arrest and imprisonment for medical marijuana.

The good news is that the federal government has finally issued
guidelines for private researchers and states that want to study
marijuana's medical uses.

The state Department of Health should seize this opportunity to open a
statewide research program, which would do three things:

1) Provide patients with a safe and reliable supply of marijuana so
they don't have to purchase it from drug dealers.

2) Protect patients from state-level prosecution and adhere to federal

3) Produce the data that the FDA requires before it can approve
marijuana as a prescription medicine. Once that happens, marijuana can
be distributed through pharmacies - the preferred mode of

Now is the time to establish a program. The new federal guidelines
represent the best climate for research in 15 years. If you believe it
is time for New York to realize its commitment to patients and ensure
legal access to medical marijuana, I urge you to contact the Marijuana
Policy Project at (202) 462-5747.

RICHARD SCHMITZ Washington, D.C. The writer is director of state
policies at the Marijuana Policy Project. 
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