In a press conference and op-ed published by The New York Times on Wednesday, Kings County Supreme Court Justice Gustin L. Reichbach revealed that he regularly smokes marijuana to cope with the side effects of his ongoing cancer treatment, and pleaded with New York lawmakers to legalize medical use of the drug this year.
“Given my position as a sitting judge still hearing cases, well-meaning friends question the wisdom of my coming out on this issue,” he wrote. “But I recognize that fellow cancer sufferers may be unable, for a host of reasons, to give voice to our plight. It is another heartbreaking aporia in the world of cancer that the one drug that gives relief without deleterious side effects remains classified as a narcotic with no medicinal value.”
Justice Reichbach explained that smoking marijuana effectively treats his pain and nausea and helps him sleep, adding that the synthetic alternative, a prescription drug known as Marinol, “was useless.” For those reasons, he implored lawmakers to legalize medical marijuana in New York as soon as possible.
“This is not a law-and-order issue; it is a medical and a human rights issue,” he wrote.
Lawmakers in New York are currently debating medical marijuana legalization, and a recent poll found that 57 percent of New Yorkers are in favor of the proposal.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has urged his colleagues to exercise caution on the bill and take ample time to fine-tune it, but some Democratic lawmakers insist they can get it done before June.
Nationwide, polls show that about 74 percent of Americans, including a majority of Republicans, think doctors should be able to prescribe marijuana. About 50 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana for recreational use as well, according to a Gallup poll published last October.
The Obama administration, however, has conducted raids on more than 200 medical marijuana dispensaries in the 16 states that have permitted use of the drug — a rate that tops even the Bush administration.
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