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Public Hearing in Buffalo Discusses Medical Marijuana

Buffalo, NY (WBEN) - A public hearing at City Hall in Buffalo on Thursday morning discussed legislation that would allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

New York State is considering allowing the medical use of marijuana under a health care practitioner's care for patients with debilitating or life-threatening conditions.

"You would have to be certified by your physician that you have a particular condition, and those conditions are outlined in the legislation, that would benefit from the use of medical marijuana" said State Senator Diane Savino, one of the proposed bill's sponsors. "Once your doctor makes that recommendation, you would have to be certified by the state department of health, you would be issued a certification card and you would then be able to purchase medical marijuana."

During the hearing, many families with children who have diseases such as epilepsy spoke in favor of legalizing certain strains of the drug that would help their families. "For children, teenagers and adults in families affected by epilepsy, how can a medical treatment be denied to those who need it due to misconceptions and stereotypes from people with narrow views of this world" said Christine Emerson, a former nurse from Rochester whose daughter, Julia, suffers from epilepsy. "Why should Julia not have the opportunity to try cannabis, a treatment which has shown huge success with very few side effects? By denying Julia the opportunity to try this treatment you are ultimately denying her proper medical care, and affecting her quality of life."

Wendy Conte, another parent, said "we don't want to stick her (child) in a corner and get her high." Conte, along with others advocated for the use of a strain of marijuana that has low levels of THC, which is the part of the drug that creates the "high." This would, they argued, eliminate the chance that someone would sell their prescription on the street.

Not all speakers were in favor of the legislation. Executive Director of the Erie County Council for the Prevention of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Andrea Wanat said that legalizing medical marijuana would create a perception problem. "Medical marijuana is currently sending the wrong message to youth," Wanat said. "The percentage of US high school seniors reporting past-month marijuana use continues to gradually increase." Wanat went on to say that she could not support a bill that would approve a schedule-1 drug as medicine.

Both Savino and the bill's other sponsor, Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, say that under the bill, marijuana would be regulated more than other, far more dangerous prescription drugs. Under the bill, both the certification process and dispensing of marijuana would be included in the I-STOP prescription monitoring system that would "red-flag" instances where someone is being over-prescribed.

Savino said that New York has been regressive instead of progressive when it comes to drug policy, but not everyone agrees. Assemblyman David DiPietro says that it's unfair to compare marijuana with other prescription drugs. "There are a lot of drugs that are more powerful, potent, and dangerous, but kids aren't using those drugs" DiPietro said. "They (prescription drugs) do have to come with a prescription and they're for specific medical issues, where it's not like a blanket marijuana policy. It's apples and oranges, I wouldn't call that a fair comparison."

A discussion on medical marijuana doesn't mean that the drug is close to being legalized for recreational purposes. Savino told WBEN that conversation about legalizing recreational marijuana is damaging to the medical marijuana movement.

Gottfried, who oversaw the hearing, says he doesn't see a connection between medical and recreational use. "We have allowed the medical use of drugs that are extremely dangerous, highly addictive, and easily subject to abuse like morphine and hydrocodone, that are prescribed legally every day in New York State. Nobody has ever suggested that as a result, we ought to make hydrocodone legal for recreational use."

12/04/2013 4:45PM
Public Hearing to Discuss Medical Marijuana
Should medical marijuana be legalized?
12/05/2013 7:44AM
What is it with you people
A majority of WBEN poll respondents favor legalization. This position is progressive, you know. Wait until Rush learns about this! You'll be back in ideological 1956, where you belong, before you know it. Your Leaders won't have you goingoff the reservation; next thing you know you're thinking for yourself which leads to voting for your,own interests which means not voting for GOP weasels any more. Get back in line.
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