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OpinionColumnistsRachel Figueroa-Levin

Legalize -- don't despise -- medical pot

Marijuana has become much more potent in the

Marijuana has become much more potent in the past few years. The illegal growers have selectively bred the more potent plants and the amount of the active ingredient —- known as THC — has increased from about 3 percent to about 15 percent. Photo Credit: iStock

My grandmother died last year from Parkinson's disease. She was 93 -- a long life sadly ended by a progressive nervous-system disorder that interferes with movement.

She resided in an assisted-living facility with home aides 24/7 in the last couple of years of her life. Her symptoms were excruciating, including rigid muscles and impaired balance.

My grandmother was on a whole slew of medications that led to a separate slew of side effects. Then she had a whole other slew of medications for the side effects. She should have had medical marijuana, which some doctors say could have helped alleviate some of her symptoms. She didn't because it's illegal in New York State.

Two years ago, my mother-in-law died of cancer. It was her second bout with the disease and it was so bad that she decided not to go through treatment. She spent her last few months in a hospice on a whole slew of medications -- many of them painkillers -- and had a whole slew of side effects. My mother-in-law should have had medical marijuana, which many doctors say would have made her last days more comfortable. She didn't because it's illegal in New York State.

Marijuana, experts have established, has therapeutic properties. Unfortunately, some elements of government have pumped out so much anti-marijuana propaganda that medical weed won't happen on a federal level anytime soon.

But a growing number of jurisdictions -- 21 states and the District of Columbia -- have made it legal to obtain pot for medicinal purposes. Six states could join that list soon, including New York. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who previously was against such things, has indicated that he would favor a medical marijuana pilot program.

While Albany is at it, lawmakers should consider legalizing cannabis for recreational use, too, and regulate and tax it just like alcohol (which actually kills people).

Continuing to enforce pot's unnecessary criminalization is expensive and does more harm than good (think of expensive prisons with thousands of nonviolent offenders).

Don't despise, legalize medical pot for grandma -- and all the sick people in our state who need it.


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