Pubdate: Mon, 16 Apr 2012
Source: Times Union (Albany, NY)
Copyright: 2012 Capital Newspapers Division of The Hearst Corporation



The governor says the time isn't right for legalizing medical marijuana.


He could try to make it the right time.

It's hard to argue with Gov. Andrew Cuomo's prognosis for medical 
marijuana legislation in New York in 2012. He's undoubtedly correct: 
This would be a tough year to get a bill passed.

Just like last year. And the year before that. And probably just like 
next year, too. And the year after that, and ... well, you get the point.

Medical marijuana is unlikely to ever be an easy political lift. It 
needs a muscular politician to make it happen. And that's where Mr. 
Cuomo, as much a political heavyweight as this state has seen in 
years, comes in.

Rather than let patients keep suffering or risk being arrested just 
to get some relief, Mr. Cuomo should try proving Mr. Cuomo wrong - by 
spending a little of his vast political capital to do the right thing.

Impressive as his accomplishments have been, they've rarely been 
politically risky. His poll ratings were not going to suffer by 
prodding the Legislature to get a budget done on time, impose a cap 
on property tax levies, or cut income taxes. Even the extension of 
marriage rights to gay couples, which had significant opposition, was 
supported by a majority of voters, according to polls.

That's not to say what Mr. Cuomo has done so far has been easy, nor 
that it didn't take leadership. Reanimating an often dysfunctional 
government is an impressive feat.

Which is exactly the point. There are times when great leaders - 
mayors, governors, presidents - do more than get hidebound 
legislatures to do what's publicly popular. Great leaders shape 
public opinion, not just flow with it.

Medical marijuana is an issue crying out for such leadership. There 
is compelling evidence that marijuana is more effective and safer 
than prescription alternatives in treating a range of conditions - 
relieving glaucoma pressure, reducing nausea and stimulating appetite 
for cancer and AIDS patients, relieving some gastro-intestinal 
problems and reducing symptoms of multiple sclerosis. Marijuana users 
can also control their dosage to try to get the least high for the 
most medical benefit, something they can't do with some prescriptions.

The arguments against medical marijuana mainly boil down to concerns 
that its legalization will lead to widespread abuse - hardly an 
insurmountable problem. Mr. Cuomo could direct the state's law 
enforcement and health experts to devise a model system that could 
provide reasonable access and adequate controls.

But even more, this is a moment for the governor to use his bully 
pulpit to make the case that this is the right thing to do in order 
to relieve people's pain and suffering.

Will there be opposition? Will there be politicians who will be all 
too happy to paint Mr. Cuomo, and lawmakers who agree with him, as 
pals of potheads while holding themselves out as defenders of law and order?

Of course. But most people know a good, honest cause when they hear 
one. And Mr. Cuomo certainly has the skill to make the case for it.

What's left is for him to seize the challenge, even if it means 
stepping out ahead of public opinion.
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