MALONE — North Country prosecutors have sent many a drug dealer to state prison or jail for their involvement with marijuana trafficking.
So what do the district attorneys in Franklin, Clinton and Essex counties think about Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s intent to legalize medical-marijuana use by certain patients with chronic pain?
“For myself, it’s A, a slippery slope, and B, if this is a ploy for legalization, go ahead and vote and quit this charade,” Franklin County District Attorney Derek Champagne said.
“The bottom line is the active ingredient in marijuana, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), is available in pill form, so if marijuana clearly has medicinal purposes, why not dispense in pill form?”
And it doesn’t make sense for a person with lung cancer to smoke marijuana on a regular basis, he continued.
“Smoking isn’t really something you want to be doing if you’re sick.
“Just put it before the legislature and legalize it,” Champagne said. “Let’s not play out this charade for three or four years.”
‘FAILURE IN CALIFORNIA’
The district attorney described the legalization of the drug in California as “an absolute failure ... where everybody could get it.
“You had more dispensaries in certain parts of the state than Starbucks.”
Should the New York State Legislature legalize it, he said, “then it’s the law of the land. But let’s call a spade a spade. Let’s not waste everybody’s time. Go to a vote; let it be done.”
His office would continue to have brisk business even if medicinal pot is made legal, he said.
“We will still prosecute rapists and murderers,” he said, “but to me, if the active ingredient is available in pill form and it’s safe, why hasn’t the FDA approved medicinal marijuana and repealed the federal laws, if smoking marijuana is so beneficial?”
‘DEVIL IN DETAILS’
Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie said he did not want to go on record with an opinion yet since the issue is still in the discussion stage.
“I know language for a law is being proposed, but it’s not in effect yet, so I’d rather reserve comment until then,” he said.
Essex County District Attorney Kristy Sprague would also like more information on the developing legislation, but she agrees with Champagne that there are alternatives to smoking marijuana available for sick people.
“The devil is in the details,” she said in an email. “We have not heard how this is all to happen or the details of (Cuomo’s) plan.
The marijuana ingredient THC is what helps those who are ill with nausea and pain regulation, she noted, agreeing with Champagne that there doesn’t seem to be a need to make the drug available to be smoked since it comes in pill form.
“What medical benefit would smoking pot have for someone who is already ill and suffering?” Sprague said. “I can see no public-health benefit from smoking anything. It must have a negative impact on the respiratory system, and that cannot be good for anyone, ill or healthy.
FOOT IN DOOR
For Sprague, too, it’s a slippery slope.
“From a public-safety standpoint, it makes me nervous to put that foot in the door and wedge it open a bit to allow for a segue for the legalization of certain illicit substances, such as marijuana.
“If there are medicinal benefits to smoking pot versus ingesting a pill form of THC, I am all ears,” she said, adding she wants clarification from medical sources on that point.
“I would never want to prevent a terminally ill patient or a person in chronic pain from receiving relief. But I do not understand how smoking vs. ingesting THC would be more beneficial to their pain relief. Again, the devil is in the details.”
Sprague also awaits details on who would produce the medical marijuana and what standards would be put in place by the State Department of Health.
“I am curious to see how this will play out and the details for the regulations of this industry,” she said.
Email Denise A. Raymo:email@example.com