In the NYT, a judge who has cancer argues for the legalization of medical marijuana

Admittedly, I am biased, but New York state supreme court judge Gustin L. Reichbach speaks for me when he writes in a New York Times op-ed today that medical marijuana "is not a law-and-order issue; it is a medical and a human rights issue."

Like me, justice Reichbach has cancer. He has pancreatic cancer, and a prognosis that involves a short window of survival, and great pain and suffering during treatment.

"Medical science has not yet found a cure," he writes, "but it is barbaric to deny us access to one substance that has proved to ameliorate our suffering."

Read it and demand change: A Judge’s Plea for Medical Marijuana.

(NYT, via Clayton Cubitt)


  1. I feel that with the election, there are more and more people coming out in favor of medical marijuana. Could just be my confirmation bias. 

    1. Unfortunately a lot of political candidates like to use the War on (some) Drugs as a way to shore up support for a tough-on-crime candidacy. You and I see legalized marijuana (even if only for medical purposes) as compassionate, common-sense social policy. They see it as an opportunity to label their opponents as “soft on drugs.”

      1. Indeed, but what’s funny is that it wouldn’t take much rhetoric/propagandizing to turn public opinion the other way. 

        1. Too late. For most candidates, advocating reasonable drug policy would be one of the worst transgressions imaginable: the dreaded “flip-flop.”

  2. It’s incredibly brave of this judge to come forward considering his position, but I also have to admit it slightly bums me out when people only seem to see the light “when it happens to them”.  Either way, I’m happy to see one less brick in the wall.

    It’s 2012, and medical marijuana is still illegal, we still struggle with human rights for gays and other minorities, there’s still climate change denialists influencing our laws, we still don’t have a single payer system for health care, women’s rights are back under fresh attack…

     Jeez, progressives… what better time than now to finally boot out republicans and bluedog democrats on their goddam asses and get this country on track?

    1. “If marijuana is not legal within the next five years I have no faith in humanity, period.” Pineapple Express, 2008.

      1. I’m fully in favor of legalization, but to be fair, Pineapple Express should not be used as an example of the benefits of marijuana :)

        1. Have you tried it yet? It’s pretty tasty and works well. It also has a decent CBD count at about 0.17%. It’s not about the THC, but the CBD. 

    2. Hear hear!  It’s our only viable option for reform.  Ultimately a strong third party is what we need.  i.e. Progressives who aren’t tea-party neocons in disguise… I mean actual progressives who ACTUALLY DO stand for equality, freedom, civil rights, personal rights, sane budgets, local control, and actively remove power from the military-industrial-corporate complex currently in charge and give it back to Democracy in the pure meaning.  That’s what we NEED…  will we get it?  Might take a DAMN LONG TIME… which is a DAMN CRYIN SHAME and a GODDAMN CRIME.

      1. Progressives who aren’t tea-party neocons in disguise…

        Shouldn’t that be Libertarians who aren’t tea-party neocons?

        1. I guess I qualify as a Libertarian, but I don’t generally tell people that.  There seems to be a perception that Libertarians are insane.  Basically I’m fiscally conservative and socially liberal, and I don’t mind being identified as either Progressive or Libertarian.  Is there a word for that?

          1. I’m really okay with people refusing to label themselves politically. If I could do one thing to fix politics, it would be to outlaw parties and force candidates to run on their own merits.

          2. Right, Libertarians really helped this country by pushing free market economics & fighting government regulations.  Look how the stimulus fell flat.  Oh, wait . . . (this is actually a reply to BongBong.)

          3. Maybe I should have elaborated a bit here, and yeah, it gets sticky when labels are thrown about, but here goes:

            The way I understand it, the term “Progressive” usually comes hand-in-hand with key liberal stances such as gun control and higher taxes for a social net, whereas the tea party people and Libertarians have more in common with each other on issues of that nature, the opposite stance to the progressive one.

          4. @Antinous_Moderator:disqus The problem I see with banning parties is twofold:

            The first problem is that it would go against the peaceable assembly clause of the First Amendment.
            The second problem is that even if you got rid of that, to prevent parties from forming anyway, you’d basically have to have a witch hunt against parties, which would be a horrible situation.

            I’d say, rather than ban parties, embrace them more, so that they can be controlled. And, rather than electing the House of Representatives by district, elect it by proportional representation from the entire country’s votes – after all, the Senate is supposed to represent the states, the House is supposed to represent the people.

        2. Aren’t the Freemen in Texas & Montana considering themselves Libertarians?  Aren’t Ed & Elaine Brown, the Tax Refusers from New Hampshire considering themselves Libertarians?  U get my drift.  It’s what Antinous said…  we need to outlaw parties and force ourselves to start seeing similarities rather than differences and stand on our own merits.  I say… it’s gonna take at least another 100 years for that… IF WE ARE LUCKY.  I bet we will have another civil war or some kind of mass secession and bloodshed before that, though…

    3. It slightly bums me out when people only seem to see the light “when it happens to them”

      Considering he’s a man in a position of power, I Googled his MJ stance in the past, and found nothing.  I did find the following comment on a forum, though:  “I wonder how many people this guy has sent to jail for possession of marijuana?”

      A bit crass to ask this about a suffering man, maybe, but a fair question, it would be beyond the pale to cause unspeakable suffering to others who use weed, then change stance only after the tables are turned and being FORCED to walk a mile in their shoes. And never mind pancreatic cancer, millions use weed to relieve stress, strengthen appetite and sleep soundly. It’s a humane substance all across the board.

      1. I am also eager to know about his stance on the topic prior to the cancer diagnosis. Eventually that of serial killer before he’s sent to the death row.

  3. It’s lucky for the US that you folks have a giant living experiment on the legalization of medical marijuana right next door. It’s been legal up here in Canada for over a decade, with no ill-effects to society. Just like same-sex marriage.

    If our society hasn’t slid into decline and chaos over these things, yours probably won’t either.

    1. Except that the MMJ programs (at least that of Ontario, the Medical Marijuana Access Regulations, MMAR) are under attack for being useless. The Ontario MMAR is currently about to be shot down due to R v Mernagh, and the ruling is on hold while we wait for the appeal decision. Mernagh’s case is pretty strong, and the Crown’s oral arguments were pretty weak. If the Ontario government loses the appeal and then fails to propose a new program 90 days after the ruling goes into effect, then personal possession and cultivation are legal (in Ontario at least) because MMAR was an illusion created to prop up prohibition.

      But, yes, Canada hasn’t collapsed. And we have gay marriage, too. No apocalypse yet.

        1. Well, MMAR was useless because, while you were supposed to be able to access medical marijuana if you had one or more qualifying conditions/etc., good luck finding a doctor who would be willing to sign off on it. In the appeal of R v Mernagh, the Crown addressed the point that patients were having to go to multiple doctors to find one who would sign off on their paperwork, stating that they should’ve just kept trying.

          Mernagh’s team then presented case after case of transcripts from people who tried as many as 15 different doctors and still couldn’t (and these are people suffering from chronic pain and debilitating conditions)… so, their argument went, how many is enough? Is 25 enough?

          Mernagh’s team read a transcript submitted by a patient who was one of their case studies submitted as part of their side of the evidence. F. F., as he’s known in court to protect his identity and medical privacy, admitted in his transcripts that he went to his neurologist and asked the doc to sever his spinal cord because he was in such awful pain below the waist and could not get medical marijuana to treat it.

          The state is giving these people a choice: Suffer or be criminals. We’re criminalizing medical care.

          (P.S. I vape it theraputically — and on occasion for entertainment, I admit, but not too much for fear of building too much of a tolerance.)

  4. Not only should it be decriminalized, damages should be awarded to those who have been denied access to their medicine.  Decriminalization is not a gift the government has given us, it’s a long-delayed end to what Reichbach aptly calls a barbaric practice.

    It’s far too late to forgive and forget, the government needs to answer for the pain and suffering they’ve inflicted on so many sick and dying people.

  5. There are recognized legitimate medical uses for a wide range of commonly abused substances.  I’ve personally had barbiturates, opioid narcotics, benzodiazepines, and nitrous oxide, all legally, and that’s just for dental work.  Amphetamines are also widely prescribed.  Even cocaine is still administered from time to time.  Why should marijuana be different from any of these other drugs that have both unquestioned medical uses and the potential for abuse?

  6. Many of you have seen this video of Mitt Romney at his sociopathic best, but I feel it’s appropriate to post here:

    1.  Romney is no more a sociopath than the current Droner in the White  House, or the war monger before him, or the wh*re and war monger before that. Open your eyes to what is, not what you wish there were.

        1.  No, that’s not what I meant at all. Hillary Clinton has never been president.

  7. I drink whiskey so strong it makes the universal assault on marijuana a travesty. A total fucking travesty. I could NEVER be a pig and bust someone for pot. Never. I’d be fired within a month. Potheads and recreational tokers should be considered as a normal part of society as the heavy-drinker who doesn’t drive and never get in trouble (me).

    1. Sounds like my martinis, two of ’em and I’m thoroughly fucking bombed. Then I start posting weird comments here on BB.

      1. Truth lies within… Life is short, brutha. May as well avoid crackers’n grandma…. Special sites become family, man.

      2. I don’t post drunkenly.  But I used to… that’s how I got here.  Now I’m trying to post my way out.

  8. Half of the elderly fools who still stand for illegal marijuana are completely oblivious to the fact that it could help them live a more substantial and longer life.  They sit there pointing blame and shame with arthritic fingers all while taking a plethora of drugs designed to cost a lot and do a little with many bad side effects. 

    I call for a new definition of the word druggy.  Anyone who takes any hard drug, be it prescribed or not.  Maybe then judges will stop throwing people away for a Weed, while literally popping pills on the bench.

    1. Half of the elderly fools who still stand for illegal marijuana are completely oblivious to the fact that it could help them live a more substantial and longer life.

      If they’re at all like my 78 year old dad, they still believe the propaganda about marijuana they were raised with, and regard those who use it as drug addicts bent on wreaking sociopathic criminal sexual deviant havoc. Hard to let go of things your government has drilled into you as the unvarnished and unquestionable truth, and that remains true in areas far removed from drugs. Take the “war on terror” and how it’s completely necessary to destroy our freedom/civil liberties/fundamental rights in order to save them for example…

        1.  For those that believe it, the propaganda isn’t obvious, it’s truth. Take those that still believe that our president is, in his heart of hearts, a liberal for example. Or those who believe that the rich are “job creators.” Or people who believe that Social Security is going bankrupt, or that the path to prosperity is to bail out the banks. All of that is propaganda, and everyone who believes in those things believes that those things are true. (None are.)

  9. I like how he uses the word “barbaric”.  It is barbaric to allow your personal beliefs to dictate whether someone has to be in pain or not.

  10. I will say this: I greatly respect this judge for speaking his truth.  And I emphasize with his plight.

    Though I have to wonder if he ever pronounced judgement on others who sold, possessed or partook of said weed…how many weeks, months, years wasted.  Of course it’s just one person, I gotta give the guy a break: the system of criminalizing some drugs and the Puritanical subjugation of users thereof is generations old…

    If you are not aware of the historical connection between Hearst era yellow ‘journalism’;  that industries’ fear of hemp combined with a convenient slam of Black people: ask Jello Biafra…

    I live in a Civilized Place (all things considered); or at least, where use of marijuana is concerned.  My parents smoked weed before I was born, they both turned 70 this year.  They both can touch their toes, sing a song, crack a joke, read books, talk history/sci-fi/spirituality…

    I may not see eye-to-eye with them at all times; but I can assure you their lifestyle is NOT CRIMINAL.  They are and have been as I’ve known them kind, smart, curious, virtuous people.

    The very thought that they could be charged, condemned and Imprisoned for choosing to smoke a plant makes me see kinda fuzzy with rage…

    Thank Goodness I have the sensimilla to calm me down.

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