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Editorial: Legalize medical marijuana in New York

Scarsdale mom Andrea Sanderlin allegedly used this warehouse

Scarsdale mom Andrea Sanderlin allegedly used this warehouse in Queens to set up a high-tech marijuana grow house, where she had thousands of pot plants growing under state of the art lighting, federal authorities said Tuesday. (June 4, 2013) Credit: DEA/Department of Justice

It's time to make medical marijuana legal in New York.

Seriously ill people enduring chronic pain, nausea and wasting from loss of appetite could see those debilitating symptoms mitigated by the drug, according to the National Academy of Sciences. Other controlled substances, such as morphine and other opiates, are used legally for medical purposes despite the obvious potential for abuse. It should be the same for marijuana, which is less fraught with peril.

After years of controversy, proponents of legalization have settled on a proposal in identical bills before the Senate and Assembly that would tightly regulate medical marijuana's distribution and use.

It would authorize doctors, physician assistants and nurse practitioners to certify that a patient has one of 21 severe medical conditions in the legislation, such as cancer, HIV/AIDS and Parkinson's, and would benefit from marijuana use. Those patients would have to register with the state health department and receive a registry photo identification card. Medical practitioners would recommend the appropriate dosage, but patients could get no more than 21/2 ounces a month.

Organizations would have to be licensed by the state to grow, distribute and dispense medical marijuana. Smokable marijuana would be prohibited for patients younger than 21, and products attractive to children, such as confections and carbonated beverages, would be banned.

While raising state revenue isn't the reason to legalize medical marijuana, it would be taxed at 7 percent. Forty-five percent of the money would go to the state and 45 percent would be shared by localities where it's grown and dispensed. The remainder would be set aside for drug abuse counseling and treatment and grants to law enforcement.

Twenty states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana. New York ought to be the next to recognize that the benefit for the sick and dying far outweighs any risk.