THE TIME IS NOW!
UNDER THE TABLE
Several times a month, Mike Weyand, 59, of Manhattan, visits one of the three volunteers who run his illegal marijuana club.
When he arrives, the AIDS patient plops down about $20 to $40 (at $9 a gram) and receives a neatly sealed baggie labeled with the name of the club.
The Manhattan-based club has about 175 members. Most are men with AIDS or women who have or have had cancer. After providing medical docu- mentation of an illness and paying a $10 fee, they get a picture ID (to identify themselves if stopped by police) and are notified to place an order.
Weyand began smoking pot to combat the wasting syndrome and appetite loss caused by antiretrovirals. At about 5-foot-6, he drifted down to 115 pounds.
“I’d have just a few puffs and pretty soon I’d feel like eating,” he recounted. Soon, he was up to 143 pounds.
Weyand, who joined the 20-year-old club about nine years ago, said the quality, reliability and camarade- rie it provides have been heaven sent. “Have you ever bought marijuana off the street?” he asked. “Drug dealers are the flaki- est people you’d ever want to know.”
High time for pot Rx?
Even as advocates for medical marijuana in New York say they’re seeing hopeful smoke signals, the legislation — for now named said the marijuana bill is unlikely to be included in this year’s budget and probably won’t see a vote before January.
That’s not stopping grass- roots supporters in New York from working to convince Democratic holdouts in Albany.
The bill in the of New Yorkers They have been trying for more than a decade to decriminalize the use of pot for patients seeking relief from pain, nausea and other symptoms.
Legislature, however, has broad-based public support, polls show, and the state has favorable Democratic majorities in both houses. Also, national momentum 577,712 “It’s time to deal and the recent legal- with this realistically ization of prescription pot in New Jersey are seen as encouraging indications. Legislation has been stymied because the upstate-downstate divide dictates that “New York always brings up the rearon any social trending issue,”
Still, challenges remain, advocates say. Even New Jersey’s passage has to been marked with disputes that have delayed implementation until October.
Opponents complain that medical marijuana could lead to complete decriminalization. Joseph A. Califano Jr., chairman of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, has expressed concern that pot might be diverted to people for the Senate Republicans, declined to speak about the bill’s particulars but said most of his conference was opposed.
Those fears should not deprive sick people of what they need to best manage their illnesses, supporters contend.
Jamin Sewell, 42, legislative counsel to Councilman Oliver Koppell (D-Riverdale), has multiple sclerosis and wants marijuana legalized to help him fight severe neuropathy. “The pharmaceutical drugs I’m on just don’t help,” he said.
HOW IT MIGHT WORK
Under the New York proposal, “licensed practitioners” would annually certify patients who have a condition for which marijuana might be useful, allowing legal possession of up to 2.5 ounces.
- The Department of Health would issue ID cards to patients and caregivers.
- Pharmacies, clinics, hospitals and nonprofit organizations could apply to become “registered organizations” to acquire, sell, deliver and distribute medical marijuana.
- Growers would apply to be “registered producers.”
- Patients would be prohibited from smoking pot in the presence of non-certified recipients.
- Public and private health insurers would not be required to cover the costs of the drug. (Good luck getting reimbursed from your flex-spending plan.)