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14/06/2007 00:00:00

US: Assembly passes grow-your-own bill; medicinal marijuana debate

Assembly passes grow-your-own bill; medicinal marijuana debate goes on.

Albany — Sick New Yorkers seeking some herbal relief would have to grow
it alone under the latest effort to legalize medicinal marijuana in the
Empire State.

A bill that passed the Assembly by a 93-51 vote last night would set up
a state approval process to let certain patients possess up to 2.5
ounces of pot. The more horticulturally inclined could keep as many as a
dozen budding cannabis plants at home to harvest.

Where they score the seeds and other supplies, however, is the medicinal
marijuana movement's version of the don't-ask-don't-tell policy. The
bill simply leaves that unsaid. That is not unlike how it's done in the
other 12 states that have adopted medicinal marijuana laws since
California voters approved the first in 1996. The grow-your-own plan is
being pushed by the Assembly's Democratic majority and its chief
sponsor, Health Committee Chairman Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan.

Federal law does not recognize medicinal marijuana. So doctors who
prescribe the drug to cancer patients or multiple sclerosis sufferers
risk losing their licenses with the Drug Enforcement Administration. The
feds have also been known to shut down co-ops producing the plants for
medical use in California.

But, so far, they haven't gone after patients. Laws like the one
proposed by Gottfried, assumes they won't start. The concept has sewn a
seed of discontent with the Senate's Republican leadership even as
Albany seems to be approaching historic consensus on the issue. Senators
favor a more controlled process, where pot is grown in state-sanctioned
facilities and doled out by doctors. While prosecutor-turned-governor
Eliot Spitzer has dropped his opposition and said he's open to the idea,
it's unclear whether the conflict over how to get pot into patients'
hands can be overcome before the legislative session ends next Thursday.

Lawmakers toke about proposed medicinal marijuana

Sen. John Bonacic, R-Mount Hope
"I am supportive, providing it's done for patients that are in severe
pain. It has to be controlled. It has to be monitored. What we don't
want to do is to allow this to become an avenue to abuse."

Sen. Bill Larkin, R-Cornwall-on-Hudson
"If a doctor's going to prescribe it, there has to be some real defined
lines. I don't like it, but if some doctor says this a way we're going
to make someone's life easier, then we should look at it. But I would
have to see all the mechanisms."

Sen. Tom Morahan, R-New City
"If indeed the science teaches us that this drug is helpful to people
who are terminally ill and it has a useful purpose, I see it as no
different than any other drug that is controlled and prescribed by a

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, D-City of Kingston
"I don't subscribe to the concept that this is an open door to the
legalization of marijuana. Limited use of marijuana under the
circumstance we're talking about here is safe, effective and humane."

Assemblywoman Nancy Calhoun, R-Blooming Grove
"Marijuana has been proven to offer physical relief to those suffering
cancer and other diseases and I think we should follow the lead of
several other states and enact the same legislation."

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, D-Forestburgh
"I don't like the fact that they expect people to grow it on their own.
I always think that those kind of drugs, medications should be more
controlled. When you really need it, how long does it take to grow?"

Assemblyman Tom Kirwan, R-City of Newburgh
"I don't see it as a back-door way of legalizing marijuana at all. I see
it as way of providing relief for people who need it, who, right now,
have to get it unlawfully."

Assemblywoman Annie Rabbitt, R-Greenwood Lake
"I'm against it because I think it is a mind-altering substance. If it
came to the floor of the Assembly, I would vote against it."

Author: Recordline: Times Herald Record via UKCIA

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