Pubdate: Thu, 17 May 2012
Source: Times Union (Albany, NY)
Copyright: 2012 Capital Newspapers Division of The Hearst Corporation
Author: Jimmy Vielkind


New York Lawmakers Believe State Can Avoid California-Like Problems

ALBANY - New York can legalize medicinal marijuana without causing the
sort of problems that have arisen in California, a Manhattan
assemblyman said Wednesday.

Assemblyman Dick Gottfried announced that a bill doing so would be
brought to a vote in the Democrat-dominated chamber this year. The
legislation was advanced through the Health Committee, which he
chairs, on Tuesday. The bill has never come up for a vote in the state
Senate, where Republicans hold a bare majority, but has passed the
Assembly twice.

"It's cruel to deny treatment to patients who are suffering or to turn
them into criminals," Gottfried said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was previously opposed to legalizing medicinal pot,
but more recently said he was "studying" the issue. Gottfried and
state Sen. Diane Savino, a Staten Island Democrat who carries the bill
in the Senate, said they have spoken to Cuomo's aides.

Studies by the University of California at San Diego show cannabis can
be useful for coping with chronic pain. It is legal in 16 other
states. Seventeen states - including New Jersey - and the District of
Columbia allow medical marijuana, according to NORML, which advocates
for liberalized marijuana laws.

Under the bill, marijuana would be available to patients who receive a
doctor's prescription, which could only be issued for a "serious,
debilitating or life-threatening" condition. Patients would need to
register with the state, which would issue a card allowing them to
possess up to 2.5 ounces at a time.

Marijuana would be dispensed at hospitals or pharmacies, but New
Yorkers who live more than 20 miles from a licensed distributor could
grow their own.

Scott Reif, a spokesman for Senate Republicans, said it was "unlikely"
the bill would advance in the chamber.

Savino has just one formal co-sponsor, but said there is "significant
support ... in both parties" based on conversations with her colleagues.

In California, marijuana shops have proliferated - even near schools -
and it has been difficult for authorities to enforce existing laws.

Some prosecutors, including Warren County District Attorney Kate
Hogan, believe legalizing marijuana for one reason might lead down a
slippery slope.

"I'm very cautious," the Republican prosecutor said. "I have a grave
concerns we would develop the exponential expansion beyond what was
intended by statute, like in California. It's not a question of not
wanting to provide comfort; it's the unintended consequence of the
statute that gives me pause."

Other district attorneys support the measure, although the statewide
association has no position.

A poll released Wednesday by the Siena Research Institute shows 57
percent of voters surveyed support legalizing medical marijuana.
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D