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Medical marijuana? Yes

March 14, 2004
Daily News
Councilman Philip Read

The debate over medical marijuana comes down to a simple question: Should we prohibit doctors from prescribing or even discussing with their most gravely ill patients all treatment options?

Organizations like the New York County Medical Society and the American Academy of Family Physicians have called for the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes. Nine states already have taken this step. I have sponsored a resolution in the City Council urging the state Legislature and Gov. Pataki to enact a medical marijuana program in New York. Twenty-one Council members currently support the bill - including six of the seven Health Committee members - and I expect the resolution to be passed this spring.

At a recent hearing on the resolution, a woman testified that her brother had searched in vain for a medication to treat the nausea and lack of appetite that came with his chemotherapy. He had tried Marinol, a pill that mimics marijuana, but found it ineffective. Only marijuana relieved his symptoms. It helped him to have a better quality of life before he died. Unfortunately, he had to break the law to find relief.

The state Legislature's bill would allow patients access to marijuana without breaking the law. It would not open the door to illegal drug use or people smoking pot on the street. The legislation requires a highly monitored system, wherein doctors, patients and marijuana suppliers would be certified and regulated.

Politics should not determine what medications doctors may prescribe to patients. Respected voices in the medical community have noted marijuana's effectiveness in treating symptoms associated with HIV/AIDS, cancer, multiple sclerosis and glaucoma. The Institute of Medicine concluded that marijuana can help treat pain, nausea and appetite loss; for some, it found, marijuana works better than existing medications.

Politics should not prevent New Yorkers coping with terminal or debilitating conditions from using a drug that can offer them relief. Just imagine how you would feel about this if a loved one were gravely ill.

New York should pass a medical marijuana law now.

Reed, a Democrat, represents parts of Manhattan and the Bronx on the City Council.

Copyright © 2004, Daily News