Niagara Gazette

Opinion

January 22, 2014

Cuomo may have final say on marijuana issue

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.

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