It's time to legalize marijuana in New York

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Last month, State Sen. Liz Krueger of Manhattan submitted a bill that would fully legalize marijuana in New York. She said in a statement that the prohibition of pot is “a policy that just hasn’t worked.”

The reasons are many, from the stop-and-frisk laws that have unfairly targeted minorities, to the fact that some 600,000 people have been arrested for marijuana possession since 1997, more than for any other offense. It’s a sad waste of costly police resources.

In addition, marijuana could be a bumper crop for New York. A story in the Huffington Post cited a study predicting that legal marijuana could be a $10 billion industry within just a few years.

Treating pot as a Schedule I substance, alongside heroin and LSD, makes no sense. Imagine if all the tax money from legal marijuana sales could be poured into education or cancer research. Many studies indicate that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol when used judiciously and moderately by age-appropriate consumers.

My own experience with marijuana has taken an interesting turn. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, I had surgery and radiation. I was told I had to take a specific medication for at least the next five years. It’s a pill, an aromatase inhibitor that may prevent recurrence. Like many medications, especially cancer drugs, this one comes with significant side effects, including sleep problems.

Someone suggested I try smoking pot before going to sleep, and I did, and it worked. I talked to my oncologist about it, and he said he can’t write a prescription because it’s illegal in New York, even for medicinal purposes. He didn’t say I shouldn’t use it.

The research yields conflicting results. Some studies indicate that pot smoking is as dangerous as smoking cigarettes; others say it is less of a carcinogen. Some studies show the cessation of tumor growth with cannabis use; others don’t. Experts do agree that if marijuana is legalized, there will be new, wide-ranging studies to test its efficacy and/or harmful effects.
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