Niagara Gazette

January 22, 2014

Cuomo may have final say on marijuana issue

By DON GLYNN
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — So you're among those people opposed to New York legalizing medical marijuana. 

Welcome to the minority side on the issue.

In fact, a Siena College poll shows that 81 percent of Empire State voters approve the controversial plan.

For the record, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who had initially opposed the measure, appears now willing to allow limited use of the drug by those struggling with illness. Under his proposal, an offshoot from a 1980 state law, upwards of 20 hospitals would be permitted to dispense the drug to those suffering a serious illness. The governor prefers to think of his plan as an experimental research project.

As a result, he can circumvent the state Legislature by invoking his administrative powers. It could be accomplished under a public health provision allowing the use of controlled substances for cancer patients, glaucoma patients and patients afflicted with other diseases listed by the commissioner.

Almost two dozen states have already approved medical marijuana; Washington and Colorado have taken a step further, legalizing it for recreational use. It's understandable why lots of people would have a problem embracing the latter.

State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane, whose district includes Niagara Falls, still is opposed to the full legalization of marijuana but he's convinced by mounting evidence that the drug could be properly used for valid and vital health reasons. "I'm familiar with a family in Niagara County whose son under treatment for epilepsy has experienced as many as 15 episodes a day (from that disorder of the nervous system.)" If an extraction from that drug could be used to specifically treat that illness and others like it, the senator said he would support the legislation. Maziarz said he intends to take a closer look at the current proposal in light of what he has learned to date. A number of his colleagues on Capitol Hill have indicated they would favor the legislation too, if it would mean helping those in need.

Actually, medical marijuana bills have passed the state Assembly four times only to be tied up in the Senate. In the upper house, where the dissident Democrats share control with the GOP.

Assemblyman John D. Ceretto, R-Lewiston, who voted for the "medical marijuana" proposal in 2013, said Wednesday he intends to support it again in this session. "I'm aware of people with health issues and I personally feel that its use might help in those cases," Ceretto said. The lawmaker cited the example of a cancer-stricken person for whom the restricted use of the drug might even alleviate pain and suffering.

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THE DEEP FREEZE: An ice bridge is the Niagara Gorge is a scenic fixture at this time of year. But the frigid temperatures are taking a toll in many parts of the U.S., especially in the Midwest. About 60 percent of the Great Lakes will be under ice cover for January and February, says a scientist with the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. For the past three decades the average maximum freeze-over has approached 50 percent each year. In 2012, it was about 38 percent. Nine U.S. Coast Guard cutters and two Canadian ships are trying to break up the ice. Some ferry lines have been trapped and their runs disrupted, costing operators hefty financial losses.

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STAR POWER: Andrew Wiggins, 18, a native of Thornhill, Ont., a Toronto suburb, now playing basketball with the University of Kansas, is headed to the NBA draft in June. No matter the round when he's selected, Wiggins is in line for millions of dollars in salary and even more for endorsements. (Adidas is reportedly ready to offer him $180 million to promote its products.) Toronto Raptors' officials would relish the idea of drafting him, a move they say would revitalize their franchise.

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OUT OF THE PAST: A hiker along the upper river said it was impossible to make out the names on those two ice breakers that were recently working overtime to prevent any build-up near the power company intakes.The sturdy vessels are the "William H. Latham," named for the first resident engineer at the Niagara Power Project that started to produce power in 1961, and the "Niagara Queen 11,"owned by Ontario Power Generation (formerly Ontario Hydro) that operates the Sir Adam Beck hydroelectric plants on the Canadian side of the river.

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TRIVIA QUIZ: What was the population of Niagara Falls, according to the 2010 Census? (Answer Sunday).

Contact Reporter Don Glynn at 282-2311, ext. 2246.