The marijuana debate, a judge's plea and readers' thoughts
May 17th, 2012
12:39 PM ET

The marijuana debate, a judge's plea and readers' thoughts

Ahead of a New York state bill that would recognize marijuana for medical purposes, a state supreme judge with cancer writes in its favor in a recent New York Times op-ed.

Gustin L. Reichbach, a justice of the New York State Supreme Court, has spent the last three and a half years battling pancreatic cancer and says inhaled marijuana is his only relief.

In his op-ed advocating legitimate clinical use of marijuana, he writes:

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. When palliative care is understood as a fundamental human and medical right, marijuana for medical use should be beyond controversy.


The issue of medical marijuana and legalizing marijuana for recreational use keeps circling in the national conversation and political scene. (The issue took over the campaign in the Oregon attorney general primary race this week, for example.)

Earlier this year on GPS, Fareed Zakaria examined the impact the war on drugs has had on the overcrowded U.S. prison system, based on the infamous comments by Pat Robertson to treat marijuana the way we treat alcohol.

As Fareed wrote:

The reason Robertson is for legalizing marijuana is that it has created a prison problem in America that is well beyond what most Americans imagine. ... No other country comes even close to our rates of incarceration.

Taking up a similar theme as Robertson, a Colorado advocacy group is spending thousands of dollars to convince people that smoking pot is safer than drinking alcohol.

It's an attempt by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol to rally support for a vote in November that would legalize the drug for recreational use. (Colorado legalized marijuana for medical use in 2000.) If it were legalized, Colorado would be the first state to legalize recreational marijuana use.

One Gallup poll showed that 46% of U.S. respondents say marijuana use should remain illegal, while 50% say the use should be made legal.

It's also one of the top issues in the (unscientific) iReport Debate, in which CNN iReporters share the issue that matters most to them in the coming election.

As one reader writes: "The day we open the door to legalizing pot is the day other drugs will redesign themselves to fit the same criteria, so they may also enter. You can't say 'just this one' – 'and this one only'."

It's an issue with many opinions so what do you think? Take part in the iReport Debate and share your comments below.

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Topics: Debate • Drugs • Reader Comments

soundoff (464 Responses)
  1. Don

    Busting folks for possession and sending them to prison is good for prison business and protects the drug companies business as well. We won't help dying people have any dignity because there is no money in it for above two mentioned businesses both of which have lots of money and powerful lobbying interests to protect...

    May 18, 2012 at 8:45 am | Reply
  2. Don

    How pathetic are we to do this to law abiding citizens for drug company and private prisons profit?

    May 18, 2012 at 8:47 am | Reply
  3. People are Stupid

    [[As one reader writes: "The day we open the door to legalizing pot is the day other drugs will redesign themselves to fit the same criteria, so they may also enter. You can't say 'just this one' – 'and this one only'."]]

    Yeah, you're right. We can't allow some drugs and not others. Time to ban tylenol and penicillin too; and don't forget about all those nasty drugs we inject our children with to play God and vaccinate them. This reader is absolutely right. You can't say "just this one".

    Seriously? What a stupid comment.

    If you vote to ban pot, you are either ignorant, a nazi, or so stupid you believe all the hype. It's illegal because the DEA makes a LOT of income off it being illegal. Not to protect you as a citizen. Get real.

    May 18, 2012 at 8:47 am | Reply
  4. madeinusa

    The Presdient and the Att. Gen have the power with a pen and a swift hand to end marijuana Probaition NOW!! But the citizen of the US are blind to this fact and are not doing a thing about it. Wake up, write to the Presdient, Att. general now, before the elections and put an end this issue.

    May 18, 2012 at 8:48 am | Reply
  5. Shaunbo

    As one reader writes: "The day we open the door to legalizing pot is the day other drugs will redesign themselves to fit the same criteria, so they may also enter. You can't say 'just this one' – 'and this one only'."

    ALCOHOL = DRUG!!!

    This is a highly ignorant and ridiculous statement probably made by someone over the age of 70.

    Does this reader really think the U.S. will begin legalizing drugs such as heroin, crack cocaine and so on?

    I have many friends that have quit smoking marijuana because of screening at work. They all drink much more since...Oh, now I get it! Maybe in a few years they'll be taking prescription meds for depression as well. Well played greedy, rich corporate American companies in collusion with lawmakers. Well played.

    May 18, 2012 at 8:52 am | Reply
  6. Dano558

    The fact that alcohol has harmful effects doesn't have anything to do with legalizing marijuana. By that logic you cold argue that since guns kill more people every year than heroin then heroin should be legal.

    Anyone bringing alcohol into the equation should be arguing for prohibition.

    May 18, 2012 at 8:58 am | Reply
    • answerman28

      Its got everything to do with it. Why can something that is proven to be devastatingly harmful be legal and something loved by millions and proven to be safe is not? They have a great argument. Maybe once your hangover wears off you'll get it.

      May 18, 2012 at 9:13 am | Reply
      • Dano558

        Maybe once you quit frying your brain with drugs you will realize that the legality of alcohol has nothing to do with why marijuana should be legal.

        Millions of people love herion and crystal meth too. Guns are legal so let's legalize smack and meth too.

        May 18, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • SmokeScreen

      Dan, you truly are amazing. First off, marijuana doesn't fry your brain. That was a lie put out by the "so-called" scientists that did a marijuana study for Ronald Reagan. The way they conducted their study with monkeys, they essentially fed the monkeys so much smoke that they cut off the oxygen supply, causing brain damage due to that lack of oxygen. But of course, they attributed the death of brain cells to the marijuana. They wouldn't release their study methodology for 6 and 1/2 years afterward. Folks like you completely bought the lie and perpetuate it to this day.

      May 24, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Reply
  7. answerman28

    To all those opposed.., All the reasons MJ should be legal are legit and you know it. You can hold on to old beliefs and propaganda and try in vain to stop it but you're going to be out voted eventually. Until that time millions will continue to do it anyway because they could care less what you think or what the laws are. The most damaging thing to youths today and biggest waste of time and resources are sports and religion. Both are poisoning the minds of the youths and the tremendous resouces used up on them could be used to solve the many terrible problems we face today instead.

    May 18, 2012 at 9:06 am | Reply
    • Dano558

      Sports and religion are worse that marijuana. Do you really believe what you are saying?

      A really good reason to get rid of marijuana is the fact that it turns people into lowlife antisocial losers such as yourself.

      May 18, 2012 at 10:54 am | Reply
      • Bob

        I assume Danno you never smoked pot.
        If you think Pot does these things to people you are mistaken, a liar or both. the only "lowlife antisocial losers" I have seen is you. everyone else seems to be having a logical civil discussion, All you have is insults based on your opinion.

        if you would like to reference a scientific study to support your opinion I'd love to see it

        May 18, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
  8. Robert

    Legalizing canabis opens the door for hemp. Good, our farmers will love it. $$$
    Tax pot like cigarrets. $$$
    No earlly release for child molestors and other criminals.
    Hempgas anyone?

    May 18, 2012 at 9:08 am | Reply
  9. Danny

    AMERICA home of the free. One day i hope not to have to cringe when i c a cop and wonder if he smelled what i have.
    Paralysis & severe spasticity and i have to go around like a mouse. WHERE R MY RIGHTS????????? why do i need permission to live comfortably????? IM 42 YEARS OLD, I BELIEVE I KNOW WHATS BEST FOR ME UNCLE SAM!!

    May 18, 2012 at 9:20 am | Reply
  10. rodbinnc

    JUST SAY NOW!

    May 18, 2012 at 9:46 am | Reply
  11. Jim

    "The day we open the door to legalizing pot is the day other drugs will redesign themselves to fit the same criteria, so they may also enter. You can't say 'just this one' – 'and this one only'."

    What a load of uninformed crap. Marijuana is the only "drug" to grow naturally and not be altered in anyway before consumption. All other drugs (cocaine, heroin, meth, etc.) can – and will – kill someone who over indulges. Furthermore, none of them have any proven medical use. Meanwhile, big tobacco donates $1.5 million to political campaigns while killing nearly four times that amount of people each year. The ignorance of people in this country is astounding. Educate yourself on facts before making statements with none. CNN should be ashamed of themselves for mentioning that line in this article.

    May 18, 2012 at 9:46 am | Reply
  12. TexDoc

    Man is a drug using animal. Most people use some form of mood alterning drug. Alcohol, nicotine or caffiiene. Why should we not seek safer, recreational drugs. Marijuana seems to fit that need. The 'war' on drugs is not helping and we have too many American's in the legal system due to it.

    May 18, 2012 at 9:49 am | Reply
  13. Dan

    You have to smoke marijuana to become president today.
    Just ask Bill Clinton, G.W. Bush, and Barack Obama.
    Mitt better get toking.

    May 18, 2012 at 9:53 am | Reply
  14. VinoBianco

    nobody can come up with one legitimate, valid reason why marijuana should remain illegal.

    May 18, 2012 at 10:23 am | Reply
  15. Potrzebie

    Drugs do not "redesign themselves".

    May 18, 2012 at 10:37 am | Reply
  16. spaghettimonstr

    The time has come. Legalize it. If only for the sake of the sick, but also consider for the sake of those who simply enjoy it – perhaps instead of drinking.

    May 18, 2012 at 10:38 am | Reply
  17. LOVE

    I LOVE reading the comments section of articles like these. They are some of the most intelligent (mostly) and good natured comments around.

    Keep up the good work and legalize it!

    May 18, 2012 at 10:45 am | Reply
  18. Ballzack

    Seems like to me most people want to smoke up, seems good to me, but its pointless to talk hee its better to do it right in the white house when people decide to take our conutry back, and last thing, i dont of anyone whos has smoked weed, and woke up in jail with no memory of killing someone with their car the previous night, seems like all laws point to finding away just to screw us all.

    May 18, 2012 at 10:49 am | Reply
  19. TheDude

    "You can't say 'just this one' – 'and this one only'."

    Of course you can. We've done it successfully many times: nicotine, caffeine, alcohol, and a host of OTC pain killers are freely available. We even successfully regulate their use post-sale: alcohol cannot be used at work, and it is illegal to participate in many activities while inebriated.

    The problem is people like this, who draw some kind of imaginary line in the sand. You need to have a reason to ban a product beyond "it's banned." That is circular reasoning, and it will eventually be discarded.

    May 18, 2012 at 10:50 am | Reply
    • steve

      Well said.

      May 18, 2012 at 11:09 am | Reply
  20. mike halter

    My wife and I have been smoking pot for 40 years. My wife was a office manager for 35 years. I retired from a good
    factory job after 30+ years . We have never been in trouble ever. We will smoke to the day we die. What is sad is the
    Goverment never got a dime in tax's. Stop the madness now.

    May 18, 2012 at 10:54 am | Reply
  21. Emmett O'Riley

    Sounds to me like the concept of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness has lost it's way. Prisons for profit = big money, big money = government. I've smoked the stuff for 45 years and even grown some a few times at the risk of losing my property. I earned a college degree, raised three great kids who all have degrees now and I've worked at the same job for 35 years and about to retire to my farm. The current eco-buzzword is sustainability. This plant can be regrown every year but it takes many years to grow a tree. Not to mention all the other uses medicinal and otherwise. I'm all for
    decriminalization. Franklin D. Roosevelt was President when marijuana was made illegal by William Randolph Hearst. FDR was right about fear.

    May 18, 2012 at 10:55 am | Reply
  22. steve

    Hmmm.......let's see. War in Viet Nam, War in Iraq, War in Afghanistan and, oh yes, War on Drugs. How are we doing so far.....Hmmmm? Just legalize pot and use those tax dollars for science, education and, god forbid, even treatment centers for those who have substance abuse problems! Or, better yet, just keep building prisons. At least some construction workers will have jobs. And so will the contractors who win those sweet bids.

    May 18, 2012 at 11:07 am | Reply
  23. hillbillynwv

    The U.S.A. has approximately 742 per 100,000 people in prison, which is 4 times the amount of almost all other countries. The main cause of this is the failed "War on Drugs". In the last 10 years the state of California has built "1" college and "21" prisons. The U.S.A is going broke housing all of these prisoners. The legalizing of marijuana would turn this country around, it's simple math.

    May 18, 2012 at 11:12 am | Reply
  24. Sharky

    MJ will never be legalized. There is too much money to be made by prohibition .. from Big Pharma, the prison industrial complex, defense contractors, banks laundering the proceeds, it keeps all those judges, lawyers, and social workers employed, etc, etc.

    May 18, 2012 at 11:15 am | Reply
  25. John Q Public

    You can't criminalize something that grows out of the ground. What are you going to do? Throw God in jail?

    May 18, 2012 at 11:17 am | Reply
  26. E.

    You already said "this one and this one only" with alcohol.......and caffeine, and aspirin, and.......

    May 18, 2012 at 11:20 am | Reply
  27. Phillip Anthony Biondo

    I am the rebirth of Jesus Christ. Vote Phillip Anthony Biondo for President 2012 of the Fraternity Party! Brandon Gilligan USN for VP. Free College like k-12. Free Healthcare. All safe drugs, as determined by doctors, prescription and illegal will be legal. Invest in Intel and Amg: Superhuman computer making even smarter superhuman computer designing fusion spaceship by. God of the Universe, colonate the Milky Way. Homeless shelters, Raman noodles, and a multivitamin for the poor. Environmentally intelligent policy, Big Bang in Physics, Evolution in Biology, Strong Military, Technological Singularity in 2045. Alcohol is a fuel and tobacco is the opposite of green tea, go to the psychiatrist they will remain legal use at your own risk. I'm suing the U.S. government for Violation of freedom of Religion for sacred medicine as illegal actually causes depression as a result from being illegal. Cannabis, dmt, peyote, and psilocybin mushrooms do not qualify as schedule 1. Any intelligent human knows we are Sapiens, a species of Ape closely related to Chimpanzees. If that Sheriff is right that Obama’s birth certificate is a forgery than is he even eligible for reelection? Everyone go Meditate in full lotus. JGA: No one can use nuclear weapons.

    May 18, 2012 at 11:31 am | Reply
    • hillbillynwv

      I think i just hurt my brain by trying to understand what you wrote. What did you have for breakfast this morning??

      May 18, 2012 at 11:38 am | Reply
  28. Safetyfirst

    I can't understand why they don't regulate it for everyone. It will create a whole bunch of jobs and you can tax it to gain revenue. But they would rather keep it illegal and push it to criminals. Just keep racking up the debt.

    May 18, 2012 at 11:33 am | Reply
  29. Matt Davis

    I am absolutely against the legalization of marijuana for anything other than strict medical usage as prescribed by a licensed physician. In other words, if we legalize cannabis for medical reasons, then I have no problem with that, but society needs to be well aware that it is still dangerous and unacceptable to use outside the direction of a doctor. They understand this about narcotic pain relievers and other such medicines, yet my fear is that in the minds of many, this will only serve to legitimize cannabis use for recreational purposes. Any legalization of marijuana for medical uses should be followed by stern warnings of the dangers of marijuana usage outside the medical realm. This is important to me because I have people very close to me who have fallen into those pitfalls of marijuana usage. It's not an abstract argument when it hits home. So, I'm pleading with those who want to legalize marijuana for medical usage. Legalize it, but emphasize how dangerous it is for recreational use. There are many studies suggesting many side effects to the use of marijuana, including the possibility of lung and other cancers.

    As for treating alcohol and marijuana the same, I'm all for it. Alcohol should also be restricted to medical uses, if not outlawed altogether. Alcoholism destroys individuals, families and even causes the deaths of innocent people when a drunk driver gets behind the wheel.

    May 18, 2012 at 11:42 am | Reply
    • SmokeScreen

      You will never stop people from wanting to alter their mood recreationally, whether it be alcohol, marijuana or something else. It is a fact of human behavior from the beginning of recorded history and certainly before. It will never, ever change, got it? That said, certainly there are people who have had extremely bad experiences or simply cannot handle being high on marijuana, just like for alcohol. However, the fact is that the vast majority of people who use MJ do so responsibly, just like most alcohol users. No justification for having MJ be illegal and completely impractical (we learned already, remember?) to make alcohol illegal (again). Marijuana is still dangerous? How do you figure? Based on what evidence? It's unquestionably less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco or even a great many prescription drugs, so what's your justification again? Don't base your position on hyperbole and lies. Also realize that your personal experience with MJ can be greatly different from that of many others. Putting people in jail for its use is totally unjust. Oh, and after more than 40 years experience, there is STILL no proof whatsoever that MJ causes lung cancer – no one has EVER dies of lung cancer caused by smoking MJ... that's a fact.

      May 24, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Reply
  30. PMorin

    My Father is dying,
    The cancer he has is eating him alive! After losing 50 lb in just over 2 months he now resembles a holocaust victim more than my father, barley able to walk from the pain in his body. He is on so many different narcotic medications that cause so many other horrible side effects. It absolutely breaks my heart that the one medication he desperately needs is illegal. His name is Lou Morin, he lives in Phoenix, Arizona and he is a good man.

    May 18, 2012 at 11:46 am | Reply
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