Bill could bring relief

N.Y. poised to OK marijuana for medicinal use

Sunday, June 15, 2008
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— Richard Williams smokes marijuana regularly.

But he doesn’t consider himself a criminal, and doesn’t think he should be treated like one.

The 46-year-old Richmondville resident has been HIV positive for two decades. Smoking marijuana, he said, relieves the pain in his joints and helps him cope with persistent bouts of nausea. He has hepatitis C and a damaged liver, so he doesn’t want to take pain medication, which is processed by the liver.

Williams supports legalizing the use of medical marijuana in New York. He’s hoping the state Legislature will pass a law that does so before adjourning later this month.

“I don’t use other drugs,” Williams said. “I’m not a drug addict. … I’m speaking out because someone has to stand up for what’s right.”

Last year the Assembly passed a bill that would legalize medical marijuana; a new version of the bill has moved out of the codes committee, and another version is pending in the Senate. Those who support the bill are optimistic that this is the year New York legalizes medical marijuana.

The Assembly bill, sponsored by Rep. Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan, would allow patients to use marijuana only if they have life-threatening or debilitating conditions, and only if their doctors believe it would be the most effective treatment. Patients and caregivers would register with the state and receive identification cards that would allow them to legally purchase marijuana for medicinal use. They would be allowed to grow up to 12 plants and to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, though a state-regulated distribution system would eventually replace home cultivation. This transition would hinge on the federal government’s approval of the state-regulated distribution system.

Last year, the Assembly passed legislation legalizing medical marijuana for the first time, and this year’s version of the bill attempts to address the concerns that derailed its chances in the Senate. Some legislators felt that last year’s bill did not provide for adequate regulation; the new bill mandates that registered organizations such as pharmacies, nonprofit organizations created for the purposing of selling marijuana to chronically sick people and local health departments handle sale and distribution of the drug.

Twelve states have legalized medical marijuana, with New Mexico, which legalized medical marijuana last summer, the most recent to do.

The Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group that supports legalizing medical marijuana and overall reform of the country’s marijuana laws, is pushing the state to pass the Assembly legislation. Right now, television advertisements created by the group are running in the Capital Region, Long Island and the Buffalo area.


Burton Aldrich, 45, a quadriplegic from Kingston, appears in the 30-second television advertisement. “I don’t know if I would be around if it wasn’t for marijuana,” he says, in the advertisement. “It shouldn’t be a crime to treat pain and suffering.”

Aldrich became a quadriplegic in 1999, when he crushed his spinal cord in a diving accident. He has limited use of his arms and fingers, can wiggle his toes, and remains confined to a wheelchair. “I’m very fortunate,” he said, in a phone interview. “It could have been worse.” His body is wracked by intense spasms, and he experiences searing pain in his extremities, as well as pounding headaches that disrupt his sleep. He said he can’t take painkillers because they cause constipation. But through marijuana and meditation, he said he’s found a solution.

Aldrich tried marijuana around two years ago, while returning from a sailing trip with a friend. He was in pain, and his friend offered him some marijuana. “My spasms went away,” he said. “My pain went away like a bucket of water dropped on me.”

“I don’t flaunt it,” Aldrich said, of smoking marijuana. “I’m only pushing it because I don’t think it should be illegal. It’s a medicine.”

Williams and Aldrich both said they would rather grow their own marijuana than go to state-regulated distribution centers to acquire their drugs. They said they think the federal government is more likely to raid state-designated distribution centers than individuals growing marijuana for their own use.

The Marijuana Policy Project would like the federal government to legalize the use of medical marijuana. In lieu of that, the group supports efforts to legalize medical marijuana at the state level.

“As long as the federal government is opposed, the states are left to deal with it themselves,” said Dan Bernath, the assistant director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project. He said the federal government has made it clear that it will not target and raid sick individuals who are using marijuana to reduce symptoms and pain.

“There are sick people in New York who are relying on medical marijuana,” Bernath said. “They’re using it with a doctor’s recommendation, and right now they’re criminals for doing so. Arrest is always on their minds. It’s a real fear. They’re forced to go on the street and deal with drug dealers.” People who grow their own marijuana also risk running into trouble with the law, he said. “One of the maddening things about the illegality of medical marijuana is that its safety and efficacy has been established. … Real people really do need this. It’s just unconscionable to let them suffer when we could be doing something to help them.”

‘best treatment’

Treatments for cancer and HIV are always improving — for instance, the side effects from AIDS drugs are not nearly as debilitating as they once were — but that doesn’t mean there’s no need for medical marijuana, Bernath said. “There’s always going to be a subpopulation that finds medical marijuana to be the best treatment,” he said. “I don’t think anybody sees medical marijuana as a cure for everybody. But there are always going to be some people who will benefit.”

Williams, who has purchased marijuana for himself and friends who are chronically ill, is all too familiar with the risks of buying marijuana. On one excursion to the Bronx, a friend was arrested after buying marijuana for him.

He said marijuana also provides him with mental relief. “There are so many good things it does, and so few bad things,” Williams said. Because he is on disability, he buys marijuana when he can afford to, “not all the time.” He said he’s been living on disability since being forced to retire from his job as a press room supervisor.

“When I was working, marijuana helped me work and deal with the pain,” Williams said. “If I could afford it, and I didn’t have to worry about being busted, I’d probably use it more.”

Bernath said it’s difficult to determine how many New Yorkers would register as users of medical marijuana if it was legalized. In Rhode Island, he noted, fewer than 200 people have registered, but New York is a bigger state.

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June 15, 2008
10:05 p.m.
ProtectPatients says...

It is cruel and senseless to criminalize the seriously ill and injured for treating their debilitating or life-threatening medical conditions according to their doctors’ recommendations. Seventy-six percent of New Yorkers support allowing medical marijuana, as does the vast majority of the state's medical community -- including the state's medical schools, nurses association, and medical society.

To ask your state senator to enact the Assembly’s tightly crafted medical marijuana bill, visit . To watch Burton's ad, visit .

June 16, 2008
9:16 a.m.
ButtersFoxOne says...
(This comment was removed by the site staff.)
June 16, 2008
10:46 a.m.
alapoet says...

This bill is good legislation.

It protects patients who are using medical marijuana upon the advice of their physician. Under the bill, only the seriously ill who could benefit from the medical use of marijuana are allowed to possess and use it.

It is not only a sad waste of tax money, but also a tragic miscarriage of justice to arrest and harass sick and dying people for using the medicine which works best to alleviate their symptoms.

Sara Foss, great job on the story! Thank you for caring enough to talk to the patients.

June 16, 2008
12:21 p.m.
thecircusb0y says...

The registration part is wrong. Its against our constitutional rights.
1.) Our right to privacy
Why do I need to be in a registry available to the public for whats done in the privacy of my home?
A pain patient already has to alter there life. Why should they give up their privacy just because they may be sick? We shouldn't be pointing them out of a group, but allowing them to try and live a normal life and not stick out on any lists. they didn't do anything wrong, just had bad luck.

2.) Our right to not incriminate ourselves
It may become "legal" in NY under certain circumstances, but federal law can still provide a hindrance.

I don't see cigar and cigarette smokers, or alcoholics in a registered database...well, unless you count those who are diagnosed with an illness related to there habits which will be made known to an insurance company. Or if a crime is committed, then your registered for something or another.

But lets just go with you being a good citizen that pays your taxes, and you have a clean record. Why should you suddenly be on a list if you didn't do anything morally wrong to anybody else?
"Its against the law"
Yeah, and everytime you J-Walk in albany, or do an illegal u-turn, or litter, whatever the case, you don't think its a big deal , because you didn't hurt anybody. So why should it be a big deal if a weed smoker isn't hurting anybody.
"Because they could hurt somebody under the influence"
Oh you mean like the alcoholics who drink and drive, The smokers who bring about second hand smoke whenever I leave a building? Or lets go with the past examples. That illegal u-turn you made, caused other drivers to brake suddenly, and caused an accident. The guy j-walking, is hit by a car that is doing the speed limit and abiding traffic laws. And that litter you threw polluted the environment just alittle more, or it was a cigarette butt and caused a large forest fire, just cause you thought it was something small and wasn't safe.
I've gone alittle off topic.

Take from this what you want.

Heres a good question, how the politicians making money off this? Thats the only benefit they have, is making money and/or gaining public support to further there agenda to move up in there career, and guess what , get more money.

June 16, 2008
12:46 p.m.
ProtectPatients says...

In response to thecircusb0y: The registry would not be publicly available. It would be confidential.

The purpose is to have some way for police to verify that a person is truly a qualified patient that does not entail (often futilely) trying to reach the doctor off-hours, while the patient waits in police custody. This way the patient can quickly be on his/her way after the officer quickly verifies the card with the department of health (who would be the only ones who could access the information). It also prevents against fraud, since a recommendation alone would be hard to verify (especially off-hours). Also, were there a very rare case of a patient or caregiver violating the law, the card could be revoked, maintaining the integrity of the system.

This law would treat marijuana similarly to prescription medication, within the framework of what is allowed under federal law, not like alcohol and tobacco. It is a narrow, *medical* marijuana bill. Patients who get prescriptions do have to present a doctor's prescription to the pharmacist. Because the law cannot be set up exactly like prescriptions, due to federal law, police need some way to verify that patients are allowed to have the medical marijuana. A confidential ID card allows patients to do just that.

Also, this bill does not require people to register. Patients would only register if they choose to: if they would like to be excepted from New York's marijuana laws (within set parameters) to use medical marijuana. Why deny patients the option to choose to register to be protected from arrest?

Registry ID systems are in place in ten of the 12 medical marijuana states.

June 17, 2008
12:56 a.m.
Odysseus10 says...

I needed to leave New York and move to one of the 12 medical marijuana legal states, in order to get consistent access to quality medical marijuana - to treat the symptoms from a highly rare, genetic disorder. With the draconian Rockefeller laws still poisoning NY, I couldn't risk being locked up for decades for using one of the safest therapeutic substances known to man. So, I left my birth state and home, simply to get medicine.

But it was worth the journey. Now that I'm in a medical marijuana legal state, I can talk to my competent physicians about medical marijuana; and my physicians can respond & even RECOMMEND, without worrying about losing their licenses. I use a fraction of the more dangerous medications that I was prescribed in NY, and I have fewer negative side-effects.

I am state-registered & have the support of 5 different physicians to use medical marijuana, and my state law is behind me trying to get better, not against me. Knowing that my state law protects me from unfair state prosecution is comforting and aids in my healing (patient shouldn't have to worry about being caged for using a doctor-recommended medicine).

Many of my doctors in NY seemed as if they knew the truth about medical marijuana, but were fearful of talking about it, which is understandable, considering they need licenses to practice (and the DEA is already breathing down their necks).

I'd love to journey back to the Finger Lakes in the future & buy a home there some day, so I hope the behind-the-scenes Albany B.S. doesn't trump medicine and compassion again.

" Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known … The evidence in this record clearly shows that marijuana has been accepted as capable of relieving the distress of great numbers of very ill people, and doing so with safety under medical supervision. It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for [the] DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance."

— The Honorable Francis L. Young, DEA Chief Administrative Law Judge, 1988

Here is a link/web address to a summary of the rest of Judge Young's landmark decision (that the DEA ignored):

June 17, 2008
8:08 a.m.
sandy_beebe says...

Actually I think they should just go ahead and make it legal.Whats the point in regulating it? Pharms just want the profit criminals make when they sell it.The plant can not be patented. We made potatoes legal and corn legal.If we made every thing illegal because of its potential miss use No fruit would be in the American diet because of its potential to create alcohol.If they want it illegal because it might hurt a person then we should just go ahead and make it illegal to breathe in New York City.In Jefferson's time it was illegal not to have marijuana growing in your garden.I read a story that told of marijuana killing cancer cells .Who in their right mind would keep such a plant illegal?Only those who wish to depopulate possibly?Only those who feel threatened by it's potential to help the health of humanity?Or is it that so much can be done with the plant other than easing pain ? God forbid any one should mess with the elitist agenda's to "disappear" any thing that interferes with their global domination and depopulation plan.We should make chemtrails illegal.We should make having 5 kids illegal.We should make war with out cause illegal.There are lots of things more dangerous and deadly than marijuana, Americans should consider making illegal,Take all those opium poppies growing in Afghanistan.What's up with that?In stead of burning this deadly crop to the ground I understand
it is being aloud to flourish under armed guard.

June 17, 2008
2:21 p.m.
Odysseus10 says...


There is a steadily growing, strong body of evidence that suggests cannabis does indeed have anti-tumor and anti-cancer effects.

In fact, back in 1974, a study at the Medical College of Virginia found that marijuana's psychoactive component, THC, "slowed the growth of lung cancers, breast cancers and a virus-induced leukemia in laboratory mice, and prolonged their lives by as much as 36 percent." (Quote from Aug. 18, 1974, Washington Post)

Too bad the government kept the Virginia study under wraps, for less than scientific reasons.

Just this past January (2008), investigators at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health found that the administration of cannabinoids halted the spread of a wide range of cancers, including brain cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, lymphoma, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, and skin cancer.

Given cannabis can uniquely target malignant cells while ignoring healthy cells; and given cannabis is essentially non-toxic, cannabis offers significant advantages over standard chemotherapy treatments, according to this recent study from U. of Wisconsin.

This study reinforced the findings from other studies:

"Exposure of leukemia cells to cannabidiol led to CB2-mediated reduction in cell viability and induction in apoptosis … [and] a significant decrease in tumor burden and an increase in apoptotic tumors in vivo."
— McKallip, Robert J., et al., "Cannabidiol-Induced Apoptosis in Human Leukemia Cells: A Novel Role of Cannabidiol in the Regulation of p22phox and Nox4 Expression," Molecular Pharmacology, June 5, 2006

"A strong and statistically significant anti-tumor effect was observed … In particular, for a highly malignant human breast carcinoma cell line … cannabidiol and a cannabidiol-rich extract counteract cell growth both in vivo and in vitro as well as tumor metastasis in vivo."
— Ligresti, Alessia, et al., "Anti-Tumor Activity of Plant Cannabinoids with Emphasis on the Effect of Cannabidiol on Human Breast Carcinoma," Journal of Pharmacology And Experimental Therapeutics, May 25, 2006

"[THC] inhibited tumour-cell proliferation in vitro and decreased tumour-cell Ki67 immunostaining.”
— Guzman, M., et al., "A Pilot Clinical Study of Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol in Patients With Recurrent Glioblastoma Multiforme," British Journal of Cancer, July 2006

June 17, 2008
2:28 p.m.
Odysseus10 says...


“There is recent evidence from cell culture systems and animal models that 9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the principal psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, and other cannabinoids may inhibit the growth of some tumors by modulating key signaling pathways leading to growth arrest and cell death, as well as inhibiting tumor angiogenesis…antitumoral associations have been observed for several types of malignancies including brain, prostate, thyroid, lung, and breast.”

— Tashkin, D., et al., “Marijuana Use and the Risk of Lung and Upper Aerodigestive Tract Cancers: Results of a Population-Based Case-Control Study,” Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention, October 2006


June 17, 2008
2:52 p.m.
Odysseus10 says...


"A CLEAR DISCORD exists between the scientific community and federal legal and regulatory agencies over the medicinal value of marijuana, which impedes the expansion of research..."


"The science on medical marijuana should not be obscured or hindered by the debate surrounding the legalization of marijuana for general use."

- Reference: "Supporting Research into the Therapeutic Role of Marijuana" Released January 2008. Here's a link to the whole landmark position paper:

The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization and the second largest physician group in the United States, representing 124,000 member doctors specializing in internal medicine and related subspecialties, including cardiology, neurology, pulmonary disease, oncology and infectious diseases.

The ACP publishes "Annals of Internal Medicine," the most widely cited medical specialty journal in the world. I could be wrong, but I'm guessing the ACP knows a little more about medicine than our lawmakers.

Shouldn't we be listening to the Docs?

June 17, 2008
3:24 p.m.
Odysseus10 says...


In addition to its anti-tumoral/anti-cancer properties, cannabis also has analgesic (pain inhibiting); antispasmodic; anxiolytic (anxiety relieving); antidepressant; antipsychotic; anti-emetic; anti-rheumatoid arthritic; anti-inflammatory; antioxidative; anti-excitotoxic (slows nerve cell death) and even anti-convulsant properties, to name just a few of its blessings.

Because of this amazing array of healing properties, cannabis is used in the treatment of many conditions.


Here is a link to an incredibly informative, well researched, and well-sourced summary of "Emerging Clinical Applications for Cannabis and Cannabinoids: A Review of the Recent Scientific Literature, 2000 - 2006" - Paul Armentano, Senior Policy Analyst, NORML.

This summary covers therapeutic use of cannabis and cannabinoids for 17 separate clinical conditions: Alzheimer’s disease, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Diabetes mellitus, Dystonia, Fibromyalgia, Gastrointestinal disorders, Gliomas, Hepatitis C, Human Immunodeficiency Virus, Hypertension, Incontinence, Multiple sclerosis, Osteoporosis, Pruritis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Sleep apnea, and Tourette’s syndrome.

Keep in mind this report reviews some of the more popular applications for cannabis & cannabinoids, but there are quite a few more applications for cannabis.

In fact, I thought cannabis' wide-array of healing properties sounded too good to be true, until I delved into the research.

June 17, 2008
3:44 p.m.
Odysseus10 says...

Here's a great link to "Marijuana's History as a Medicine," by Lester Grinspoon, M.D. This history/expert testimony was prepared for the 2005 DEA hearings regarding medical marijuana research:


"Dr Grinspoon served for 40 years as Senior Psychiatrist at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center in Boston. A Fellow of both the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Psychiatric Association, he was the founding editor of both the Annual Review of Psychiatry and the Harvard Mental Health Letter.

He is the author or coauthor of over 160 journal articles or chapters and 12 books. A major area of interest has been 'illicit' drugs.

His first book, "Marihuana Reconsidered," originally published in 1971 by Harvard University Press, was recently republished as a classic. His latest book, "Marihuana, the Forbidden Medicine," co- authored with James B. Bakalar, was published by Yale University Press in 1993 (revised and expanded edition, 1997) and has now been translated into ten languages." (CCLE)

May 19, 2009
8:55 a.m.
sunny86 says...

i have bad anxiety and copnstent nausea,acid reflux,its hard to eat i throw up every morning i constantly have stomach problems..and honestly the only way i feel better is by u really think this is going to happen? and would my symptoms be medical reasons to get prescribed cannibis?

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