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Friday, October 24, 2014

Time to face the new reality of medical marijuana

Twenty states have passed laws allowing patients to access medical marijuana. Right now, New York state is exploring its options, and may become the next state to allow health care practitioners to prescribe marijuana to their patients as a form of medicine or therapy.

Many New Yorkers are still questioning the drug’s true healing capabilities — and the state’s capability to effectively regulate its use. In the meantime, several lawmakers are ready to move forward and draft legislation authorizing a state medical marijuana program.

People have the right to question the legalization of marijuana. For so long we were told that it was a drug, and using it was abusing a drug and could lead to addiction to more toxic drugs.

I know it’s a tough pill to swallow, and if you asked me five years ago if I would ever consider supporting legalizing medical marijuana, I would’ve say, “Not a chance.” But times are changing, and marijuana has become a viable form of alternative medicine for those suffering from many debilitating diseases such as ALS, multiple sclerosis, cancer and others. When traditional medicines fail to offer relief, why not give patients alternatives?

On Jan. 8, Gov. Andrew Cuomo officially unveiled a plan to allow medical marijuana in the state to help those suffering from cancer and other illnesses. In his annual State of the State address, the governor also announced that he was utilizing his administrative powers to allow 20 hospitals to dispense marijuana to patients under state Department of Health regulations, instead of crafting his own legislation.

Cuomo had previously voiced his disapproval of medical marijuana legislation, and this was a marked change in his position.

New Yorkers overwhelmingly support the legalization of medical marijuana. A 2013 poll by the Siena Research Institute found that 82 percent of New Yorkers support allowing seriously and terminally ill people to use marijuana for medical purposes if recommended by a doctor. A 2013 Quinnipiac poll found that 70 percent of New Yorkers think that allowing the use of marijuana with the recommendation of a doctor is a good idea.

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