New York Independence Party Gubernatorial Candidate Backs Medical Marijuana
New York gubernatorial candidate Tom Golisano (I) on Wednesday voiced his support for the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes and "lashed out" at Gov. George Pataki (R) for failing to reauthorize a state program to provide the drug to people with serious illnesses, the New York Times reports (Perez-Pena, New York Times, 10/17). In 1980, the state Legislature approved a program to provide marijuana to hospitals for some cancer and glaucoma patients (Odato, Albany Times Union, 10/17). Patients needed a prescription to receive the drug, and its distribution was subject to approval by a state board (New York Times, 10/17). That program, however, "lapsed with little notice after roughly a decade," the Albany Times Union reports (Albany Times Union, 10/17). According to the Times, Pataki has "refused" to reauthorize the program, but Golisano and Democratic gubernatorial candidate H. Carl McCall have said that they would reactivate the project. "My approach to this issue is to return the discretion to the doctors, who are trained to make these decisions," Golisano said (New York Times, 10/17). Golisano stated that while he supports enforcing drug laws, allowing marijuana for medical purposes "makes common sense." He suggested that distributors and manufacturers could pay licensing fees that would cover the cost of regulating the drug (Albany Times Union, 10/17). Golisano added that Pataki does not want to endorse medical marijuana because he is "in the pocket of the big drug companies who stand to lose money if medical marijuana is made available." Pataki has said in the past that he "flatly" opposes medical marijuana, but he has recently become more vague on the subject, the Times reports. The governor yesterday declined to give his opinion on the topic (New York Times, 10/17). "I talked with our medical professionals about it. They're not convinced that there aren't alternatives that aren't a better way for people to deal with pain and illness," Pataki said (Albany Times Union, 10/17).
Arizona Medical Marijuana Initiative
In related news, three businessmen have lent their financial backing to an Arizona ballot initiative that would authorize the distribution of medical marijuana, the Arizona Republic reports. University of Phoenix founder John Sperling and investors George Soros and Peter Lewis have contributed most of the $1.1 million used to finance the promotion of Proposition 203, which would allow "seriously ill" state residents to receive two ounces of marijuana each month from the Arizona Department of Public Safety. Individuals would need a doctor's prescription to receive the drug under the initiative. Officials with Battleground Arizona, an organization opposing the initiative, said that medical marijuana opponents in the state are being "outspent" on the issue, but Sam Vagenas, a spokesperson for the organization backing the initiative, said that national organizations are spending "hundreds of thousands of dollars" in Arizona to defeat the measure (Diaz, Arizona Republic, 10/17).