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 Schmits
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 marijuana.

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 law.

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 distribution.

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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