GOP in State Senate taking a big step in softening opposition to medical pot - The Buffalo News
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GOP in State Senate taking a big step in softening opposition to medical pot

The shifting by the Republican conference in the State Senate on the topic of medical marijuana is remarkable, and can’t come fast enough.

Otherwise, there will be more cases like that of Wendy S. Conte of Orchard Park. Conte recently set up residency in Colorado so that her 8-year-old daughter, Anna, could get access to that state’s medical marijuana program.

Anna suffers from debilitating seizures. Her mother is not alone in going so far as to change legal residence in order to secure the treatment she believes will help her daughter.

News Albany Bureau Chief Tom Precious wrote about Conte and others who, frustrated with New York’s inertia on allowing access to medical marijuana, are going to such desperate lengths. Who can blame them?

Apparently not even some of the Senate’s most stalwart opponents of medical marijuana.

One of them, Senate co-leader Dean Skelos, a Long Island Republican, was recently quoted saying that members have indicated support for medical marijuana, “but at the appropriate time we’ll discuss it and see if we take any legislative action.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but light years away from his past efforts to single-handedly kill medical marijuana.

It should be enough to finally get New York in line with 20 states and the District of Columbia that have legalized marijuana for certain medical patients with a doctor’s permission. In one of those states, Colorado, there is a long waiting list for access to an unusual form of marijuana. So much so that Conte is waiting it out in Western New York until her daughter’s treatments can start in October.

The discussion about the acceptance of medical marijuana involves seizure patients such as Conte’s daughter as well as people with cancer, AIDS and other debilitating diseases who cannot get relief from traditional medications.

The type of marijuana many parents are interested in is called Charlotte’s Web. It has low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the compound that gets marijuana users high. It also has high cannabidiol, or CBD, which advocates say can reduce seizures when taken in liquid, gel or paste form.

This is a far cry from the illegal and likely tainted marijuana sold on the streets that opponents of legalization fear will create a slippery slope toward addiction. Absent much of the ingredient that gets people high, it is tough to imagine that form of medical marijuana as a gateway drug. But opponents will continue to oppose, no matter the logic.

It is good to see some Senate Republicans at least considering the facts. Those senators include Mark Grisanti of Buffalo, George Maziarz of Newfane and Patrick Gallivan of Elma. They were either opposed or did not push the issue, but have now gained comfort with a medical pot bill.

Most notably perhaps is Gallivan’s support, given that he is a former Erie County sheriff. He does not favor a broad medical exemption for marijuana, saying it should be restricted to forms with THC and CBD levels like those in Charlotte’s Web.

Senate Republicans do not support relaxation of marijuana laws for recreational use. That’s fine, at least for now, as the nation’s attitude on marijuana continues to shift. But they should get behind legislation that could offer relief to desperate patients.

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