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. AJR

    It's just ridiculous how our law makers cannot open their eyes to all the health benefits Marijuana has. There is no record of anyone every dying from an OD of marijuana. However, the same cannot be said for the number of deaths that alcohol and tobacco have contributed to. People need to educate themselves on the good and the bad and then pass judgement. They need to stop listening to what the news and politicians are feeding them and do the research for themselves. Then and only then can everyone make an informed decision.

    May 18, 2012 at 11:49 am | Reply
  2. DrMike

    I started practicing as a physician in 1972, but didn't really get interested in the 'drug debate' until 1978, the year our Province (BC) proposed to send heroin users for compulsory treatment.
    I did a lot of research, and came to some conclusions that surprised me:
    heroin, in its pure form has no known harmful effects on the human body APART from addiction and potential overdose. It's a harmful, powerful drug, like alcohol, but is it harmful enough to justify the enormous costs
    of controlling it?
    We all know potheads whose lives have been put on "irrelevant", but we know many alcoholics like that too.
    Back then in 1978, I thought hey, this is bad. It couldn't be worse.
    What a difference 34 years make!
    The prison population in the US went from 500,000 to 1.5 million and the US has the highest proportion in the world of its citizenry behind bars.
    Mexico is now a failed state where criminals can kill at will, and there are no effective community structures to prevent them. I heard of a case a month ago where the two teenaged nieces of some government official had been pulled over for a driving infraction. Once they were at the police station, the local drug lord demanded they be handed over to him. The girls were handed over (BY THE POLICE) and two plastic bins of blood and body parts were delivered to the town square the next day.
    Just one example among the 48,000 killed between 2006 and 2012, the years (President) Felipe Calderon swore to wipe out the drug criminals.
    Is Mexico a safer, more prosperous place than it was in 2006?
    But more to the point for the US and Canada, does anyone doubt that the cartels will establish themselves here, and that our police structures and municipal officials will be overwhelmed?
    Forget all those stupid arguments about pharmacology and individual liberty. A well run rational society will only try to control the things it CAN control. The consumption of alcohol and recreational drugs has been devastatingly proven to be uncontrollable.
    Irrational laws create corrupt social structures.
    I have a practical suggestion: Buy shares in the for-profit prison system. Something tells me they are going to do just fine.

    May 18, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Reply
  3. Josh

    How many stoners do you see beat their wives then get behind the wheel and drive 100mph through a redlight and t-bone a family in a minivan? Pot causes much less destructive behavior than alcohol.

    May 18, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Reply
  4. Destry

    I just want the same rights that every POS alcoholic in this country has!

    May 18, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Reply
  5. 4sanity

    If people want to claim marijuana use for medical purposes, then put THC into pill form at a properly regulated dose and with the appropriate quality control. Dispense it like any other prescription drug.

    But smoking marijuana is the worst possible way for drug delivery. Each plants has variable and "unknown to the end user" potency, most of it is incinerated when lighting up and with it you deposit the same tar and cancer causing by-products as for cigarette smoking.

    And Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center has a policy that giving up smoking is a requirement for treatment. I remember the days when cancer patients were hooked up to IVs and sitting on the curb in front to the hospital while chain smoking.

    May 18, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Reply
    • Harry Wortz

      Did you read the NY Time article? Marinol is the pill form and the judge said it was useless. Most cancer patients prescribed marinol say the same thing.

      If it works for them why should it be anyones business except the patient and their physician?

      May 18, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Reply
  6. deathstalker187

    "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'." Um sorry but why not Alcohol is a drug but it is legal and hasn't made any other drugs legal or otherwise. This is a stupid quote as usual. just make it legal and lets move on to other bigger issues.

    May 18, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Reply
  7. Joe .d

    I can use a gun to defend myself from suffering from a attacker; but I can't take a few puffs to alleviate suffering right now! Stupid politicians.

    May 18, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Reply
  8. Harry Wortz

    If marijuana works for an individual then its use should be between the patient and their physician.

    May 18, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Reply
  9. CorporateOwned

    As long as corporate interests such as big phrma, beer alcohol and liquor industry, tobacco, private prison industrialized complex, control policy and perpetuate the government organizations such as law enforcement unions, DEA, DOJ, IRS, and all those industries that profit by incarcerating Americans over a non toxic harmless plant.... Nothing will change, and America will continue on the path to corporate fascism.

    Money is speech and corporations are people...... mmj will remain illegal and non violent Americans will have their children, homes, and lives taken from them. Example: California Republican Jeff Denham; among his top 6 contributors are the beer, wine, and liquor industry and casino's and gambling industry. Big phrma #28. Tobacco #33. He is clearly owned and controlled by corporate interests that want mmj illegal.

    May 18, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Reply
  10. dan

    I added some hemp seed oil which was supposed to be free of THC to a topical formula I use to treat various equine injuries.
    As a favor I used some on a horse with a saucer fracture of the cannon bone. After two days of treatment I asked the horse if it was helping. She responded by pawing the ground with the fractured leg (sign of impatience). I was dumbstruck because horses cannot be taught the meaning of words. I concluded it had to be coincidence and asked her; do you want me to give you another treatment. Same response. I could not treat her because the owner/trainer was not there. I was bewildered and extremely uneasy in her presence so I had to leave.

    Did she respond because she recognized a healing effect or reduction in pain or was there a trace of THC which made her feel better AND
    STIMULATED HER MIND TO A HIGHER LEVEL OF CONSCIOUSNESS????? Can anyone help with some answers.

    May 18, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Reply
    • Harry Wortz

      She responded because she is a he and is named Mr. Ed.

      May 18, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Reply
      • dan

        Thank you Harry. I am not trying to be funny or critical but I now have a clearer understanding of what "Level of consciousness means" and it is now obvious to me that each and every one of us lives on a different level of consciousness.It appears animals are just as intelligent as us and possibly more so. The point is; can THC in even minute amounts stimulate emotions and boost us to a higher level awareness???

        May 18, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  11. shawn

    Wow i hate people who have never smoked pot and are on here saying how bad it is....Mr President, i promise you that it wont kill you on the first puff through a pipe. when was the last time you got your own opinion, hell even air drop some marijuana on Kim jung uns' door step and then talk peace. the only way to make peace is by passing the pipe......take one hit and put it down then give it 15 mins and i promise you there will be a difference (Why do you think people want it to be legalized or decriminalized) . its not like crack or any of the other very addictive and lethal drug that physically and noticeably destroys the body ....those im 100% for keeping off the streets and illegal....i ONLY smoke marijuana and i used to smoke camel crush. people who smoke cigarettes smell horrible and they have a hard time quitting because of all the CHEMICALs in the corruptible cigarette. when was the last time u saw a ad on TV saying that cigarettes were good....LONG time ago. its call free will and if someone chooses to smoke a plant then let them do it. if someone chooses to jump off a building then let them do it. they're gonna do it regaurdless. now of course they should know the outcome prior to it....lol
    Its a seed baring plant for a reason and seriously there is so much beauty in the plant itself.... ITS GREEN for gods sake.....THC is amazing and it needs to be used for good....and not just putting a tax on something that anyone can grow. because if you Tax it then once again its government controlled which is what they want( Mr.President, you represent the people correct? and not the government).....someone wants to fill up their pockets because money is the root of all evil........the US would save so much money, since they are already feeling the pinch from the Drug war and the middle east. which is once again another WAR......OMG MAKE PEACE NOT WAR.

    there would be far less people in prisons and more room for those who actually deserve to be in such as, rapist, murders, robbers, and people who are repeat offenders.
    We need to stop trying to fix the world when we havnt even finished with our own, And set an example!
    Just like Ronald Reagan said...."And let me offer lesson number one about America: All great change in America begins at the dinner table. So, tomorrow night in the kitchen I hope the talking begins. And children, if your parents haven't been teaching you what it means to be an American, let 'em know and nail 'em on it. That would be a very American thing to do."

    GOD PLEASE bless this great country because i feel we will loose it if we dont work together.
    We the people are speaking......Who's listening?

    Please Mr. President, open what god gave you and use it well if you want another term.
    LOVE
    Shawn From Houston

    May 18, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Reply
  12. wisdomVS

    The only reason pot is still illegal is because a test to check for current intoxication from weed has yet to be developed. All test for mariquana check for THC levels... a by-product of pot use. It does not tell if the person is currently high on the substance. Employers and insurance companies need to know if accidents were a direct cause of intoxication. So, since no test exist to prove current intoxication they can only rely on the test that shows THC in the person's system.

    If we can get a test kit deveoped that shows current weed intoxication (rather than THC levels) the need to keep it illegal will go away. Who really cares if you drink alcohol or smoke weed on your days off, as long as you are sober when you come back to work.

    May 18, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Reply
  13. SICKOFIT

    It is without a doubt, much safer than alcohol. Too bad the Alcohol industry bribes our elected officials to keep canibis illegal as they know there profits would plummet.

    May 18, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Reply
  14. SmokeIT

    The worst side effect of Smoking Marijuana is it may make you lazy. You would think the government would love that. Lazy people are less likely to object to corrupt government.

    May 18, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Reply
  15. jbkorn02

    If everyone I hear from is in support of legallizing just becase it makes sense than why are so few people speaking out about it. Most sites i go to everyone is hiding theyre name. I post usually through facebook and I smoke pot every day so if the government wants to come get me they are more than welcome. I'd go to jail over and over again before cutting down on pot just based on principle.

    May 18, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Reply
  16. Joboo

    Boy are we dumb, the ONLY reason its illegal is that too many powerful people are making tax free money off of this, and that includes politicians....the truth is never told, people are not stupid. The cartels have politicians in their pockets.....DUH. It's just too much money for this not too happen. Here's another news flash.......gas is going to go WAY down real soon and it'll help Obama get elected(with the help of CNN,CBS,NBC,abc, etc etc.). We are a very dumb society and people have been programmed yes programmed to believe what they read and hear. Drugs keep this country running......always have,always will. Illegal drugs are just a means for the powerful to get richer and to enslave the people.

    May 18, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Reply
  17. 789

    The only reason marijuana is illegal is because it provides lots of jobs for the police. In America the police is God, whatever it wants, it gets – law enforcement is a state within the state. Also, all the other vampires who make big bucks from throwing people in jail want to keep it illegal – lawyers, jail guards, judges, p!!ss-testers, private prisons and their suppliers – all make a fat living from sponging off our taxes that pay for the war on drugs. They all want to keep marijuana illegal so that they can profit from the prohibition. The public safety and "morality" arguments are only smokescreens. Everyone knows this.

    May 18, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Reply
  18. SmokeIT

    Law enforcement makes millions off property seizures, prisons make millions off occupied cells, politicians make millions off lobby's representing pharmacies,law enforcement, prisons and perhaps drug cartels. Perverted greed "trumps" common sense.

    May 18, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Reply
  19. Hooligan

    The Government now tells you who you can and can't Marry, The Government tells you when and what you can or can't build on YOUR property. The Government tells you how much money you need to pay to them that YOU earned, the Government tells you what vaccines you must put in to YOUR child , The Government tells you what you can or can't put in to YOUR body, the Government tells you that YOU do not have the choice to live or die.

    Scary when it's put in such simple phrasing like that.

    May 18, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Reply
    • Joboo

      Gays have never been allowed to marry, it's just wrong. They make up 1 percent of total population. I sure don't want my sons living next to mr and mr jones......next thing you'll want pedophiles able to marry children, 75 percent of America don't want it to happen....if California voted it down, well that ought to tell you. Don't be a sheep, be a Shepard.

      May 18, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Reply
  20. Yakobi

    The problem is, for every 1 person who could truly benefit from it, there are 10,000 who just want to get high. In places where "medical" pot is legal, stores that sell it (as well as head shops) have sprung up like mushrooms and bringing with them additional crime (locally a person delivering "medical" pot was robbed and shot).

    The only way this could work is for actual doctors–and not the rubberstampers the storefronts hire–to issue prescriptions.

    May 18, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Reply
    • SmokeIT

      Please link the source of the "alleged" increase in crime from legal head shops and pot stores. I think it is BS.

      May 18, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Reply
  21. skinny P

    i smoke weed everyday cause im an american that has problems...who are you to tell me what i can and can not do. and for all you blind idiots who want to bring god into this QUOTE THE BIBLE BOOK OF GENISUS ...I GIVE TO YOU ALL SEED BARRING PLANTS

    May 18, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Reply
  22. John Smyth

    The US has grown and distributed marijuana to patients since the 70's.
    The program is run out of the University of Mississippi.
    Clinton closed the program to new patients at the height of the AIDS crisis.
    Barry could reopen the program with the stroke of a pen.

    The Obama administration LIES when it says it "can do nothing".

    May 18, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Reply
  23. KawiMan

    I have been clean & sober for 29+ years. I still think pot should be legalized. It's benefits far outweigh the problems. It's liabilities are far fewer and much less severe than alcohol ever was.

    Law enforcement/the judicial system/ the prison system have become big business that greatly capitalizes on this so called, "War on Drugs". Incarcerating someone for possession while violent offenders are allowed to walk free or parole is ludicrous.

    Law enforcement priorities need to drastically change, but that won't happen until the financial incentive is removed.

    May 18, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Reply
  24. Joboo

    To you potheads, GROWUP and face yourself and face your life without a crutch....weak weak children.

    May 18, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Reply
    • SmokeIT

      Go drink a beer hypocrite.

      May 18, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Reply
      • Joboo

        I don't drink mr. Assume everything. I am an adult and make my own choices, just because the tv says so don't mean it's for everyone.

        May 18, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • shawn

      its not a crutch, its just something people see/use as a recreational tool. just like fishing, hunting, soccer, footballl, baseball....all recreational events.....smoking marijuana relaxes the mind and body and can be done in the comfort of their own home...we each have preferences correct?....and if its not for everyone you being one of them, then why the hell are you commenting....i also know for a fact your a hypocrite...sooo buzz off hater

      May 18, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Reply
    • soicanleavecommentsonblogs

      Well, religion is a crutch and it appears satan created religion to ensure there can never be world peace let alone peace between family member. Religion creates hatred and war, not peace.

      May 18, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Reply
  25. Joboo

    I hope I didn't hurt your feelings......put the pipe down, you'll be ok, I promise.

    May 18, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Reply
  26. SmokeIT

    same logic, just because it is illegal doesn't mean it should be. and don't assume i am a Mr.

    May 18, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Reply
    • Joboo

      Mr is a general response, boy are you potheads sensitive.......okay let's try again. Don't assume mr or mrs chemically dependent adolescent. Grow up and have some courage, have some respect for your own mind, you don't have to be under the influence of ANYTHING. Try listening to some different music, stop watching liberal reality shows and just get yourself together.....you are a mess. Try QUITTING the things the tv tells you is hip and cool.

      May 18, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Reply
      • shawn

        Hip and cool...ehh? Judgmental much he is. nope once again way off.....

        May 18, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  27. SmokeIT

    ..and not everyone can be as superior as you and face this current reality like you claim to do.

    May 18, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Reply
    • shawn

      ....lol no just give the hater a break for thinkin hes perfect. the worlds changing and is going to change whether he likes it or not.....

      May 18, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Reply
      • Joboo

        Changing? Or going down the tubes? You should research your grandparents and try to respect the right way things are done......the people aren't meant to live this way. Stoned and stupid is no way to go through life son.

        May 18, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
      • Joboo

        Typical pothead, excuses excuses excuses.....poor kid

        May 18, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  28. Joboo

    Why not try? You too scared? Need a crutch? Weak weak weak

    May 18, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Reply
  29. SmokeIT

    bored bored bored

    May 18, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Reply
  30. Joboo

    What is your passion? You seem intelligent enough.....follow your passion, pot steals dreams and eventually all your life is just that, a long hazy dream.....you are better than that

    May 18, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Reply
    • shawn

      maybe for the prodigal children, but not for the strong willed and deffinatly not whom respect something that once planted, watered, nurtured and cared for.....its green after all and has been around since....EVER

      May 18, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Reply
      • Joboo

        So have a lot of things, that don't make it right

        May 18, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • justsayin

      The only reason "pot steals dreams" is because of the stupid bs laws that makes it illegal

      May 21, 2012 at 5:50 pm | Reply
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