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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, July 1, 2010
Protesters say pot should be legal
By Anne Hayden
At a pro-marijuana rally at the State Capitol building last week, gubernatorial candidate Warren Redlich spoke in favor of ending the prohibition on marijuana.
“Here is the simple thing it costs a lot of money to investigate, arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate people for marijuana-related crimes, and it doesn’t work,” Redlich said. A Guilderland Councilman, Redlich is running for governor on the Libertarian line. There would be more money in the state budget if it weren’t being wasted on these crimes, he said.
Redlich, a lawyer, created a website called repeal.net, which states, “No one should go to prison for what they put in their body. The drug war has failed, and created great harm to our society.”
The rally on Friday was sponsored by the Freedom First Party, and New York Citizens Against Marijuana Prohibition, a group that was formed two years ago to push for legalization of the drug.
Abigail Storm, one of the founding members of NYCAMP, said she believes the laws prohibiting marijuana use are based on lies and deception.
“The government wants to have this ‘tough on crime’ status. Legislators are afraid of being viewed as drug-pushers,” Storm said. Earlier this year, to exercise her rights, she walked down State Street in Albany carrying a marijuana plant that she had grown, and was arrested. To defend her rights, she has filed federal action against the State Assembly for continuing criminal sanctions on marijuana.
The state legislature is debating a bill, Medical Marijuana Bill A9016, that would allow critically ill patients to legally obtain medical marijuana through pharmacies.
Craig Burridge, the executive director of the Pharmacists Society of New York, said the bill is much different than the bills that legalize medical marijuana in other states, and, in his opinion, is a much better model for such a law.
“There is no one better trained in dispensing controlled substances than a pharmacist,” Burridge said. The law would make the medicinal use of marijuana less dangerous for ill patients, because, he said, when a patient buys marijuana off the street, it could be laced with other, more dangerous chemicals.
If the bill passes into law, marijuana producers would be able to register with the state to grow medical marijuana for the purposes of distribution. Burridge said the bill discusses very strict regulations for medical marijuana producers. The bill also calls for a quantity limit per patient, and requires patient photo identification to pick up a prescription.
“It is high time we provide this service. It would be a great thing to have this standardized. It would be secure, traceable, and safe,” said Burridge. He said it would be a voluntary program for pharmacies, but that, those at nearly all of the pharmacies he had spoken to across the state said they wanted to be involved if it would help patients.
“I think it’s going to create competition, too. It’s going to be a cash product, which will be good for the patient in terms of cost,” Burridge said. He said he does not believe that marijuana should be considered a “gateway drug.”
“I always say marijuana is a gateway to the refrigerator more than anything else,” Burridge quipped, alluding to the way marijuana stimulates the appetite. Medical marijuana can be used to induce appetite and reduce nausea in patients who are undergoing chemotherapy or other harsh treatments that can affect the stomach. Burridge said it can also be used to relieve pain in patients with glaucoma or muscle-wasting diseases.
“Marijuana is only a gateway drug if you are buying it on the street from someone who’s got something else to sell you. I could make the argument that alcohol is a gateway drug, because people do dumb things under the influence of alcohol. Medical marijuana is not a gateway drug for people who are also on far more toxic medications,” said Burridge.
Storm thinks the medical marijuana bill is far too limited, to the point of being extreme. She said she believes people should be able to grow marijuana plants on their own property and smoke it in their homes.
Redlich said he hasn’t been following the progress of the medical marijuana bill, though he does support it.
“I think the big thing we need to recognize, as we did in 1933, is that prohibitions don’t work. We didn’t legalize alcohol because it is good for you, or has medicinal value. We legalized it because it was creating a lot of crime and costing money,” Redlich said. Redlich said he thought it would be reasonable to treat it like tobacco and alcohol.
“My opinion is that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol and tobacco. I concede that marijuana is not good for you, but neither are potato chips,” said Redlich. He said he smoked marijuana recreationally in high school and college, but has not smoked since the late 1980s.
“Drunk people couldn’t end alcohol prohibition; the sober people had to do it. I believe, if you are going to criticize a drug prohibition, you have to be clean,” Redlich said. He said he wants to end the prohibition because it would be beneficial to the government in terms of cost-savings, not because he wants to smoke it.
“Baby steps,” said Burridge. “Legalizing medical marijuana has to come first.”