The New York state legislature is considering medical marijuana again. In the past, it has been approved by the Assembly, but died in the Senate. New York Judge Gustin L. Reichbach, who has been battling pancreatic cancer for over three years, today pleads for legalization in a moving, eloquent, and courageous op ed in the NYT, “A Judge’s Plea for Pot.” Some excerpts:
“Nausea and pain are constant companions. One struggles to eat enough to stave off the dramatic weight loss that is part of this disease. … Pain medication leads to loss of appetite and constipation. Anti-nausea medication raises glucose levels, a serious problem for me with my pancreas so compromised. Sleep, which might bring respite from the miseries of the day, becomes increasingly elusive.
“Inhaled marijuana is the only medicine that gives me some relief from nausea, stimulates my appetite, and makes it easier to fall asleep. The oral synthetic substitute, Marinol, prescribed by my doctors, was useless.
“This is not a law-and-order issue; it is a medical and a human rights issue. Being treated at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, I am receiving the absolute gold standard of medical care. But doctors cannot be expected to do what the law prohibits, even when they know it is in the best interests of their patients.
“Given my position as a sitting judge still hearing cases, well-meaning friends question the wisdom of my coming out on this issue. But I recognize that fellow cancer sufferers may be unable, for a host of reasons, to give voice to our plight.
“Because criminalizing an effective medical technique affects the fair administration of justice, I feel obliged to speak out as both a judge and a cancer patient suffering with a fatal disease. I implore the governor and the Legislature of New York, always considered a leader among states, to join the forward leader and humane thinking of 16 other states and pass the medical marijuana bill this year.”