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What to consider before legalizing medical marijuana

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: What to consider before legalizing medical marijuana
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As Colorado and Washington state legalize recreational marijuana, more people than ever are talking about the drug. Legalizing it for widespread use will probably never happen in New York State. But lawmakers have been working on legislation that would allow medicinal marijuana. Our Katie Gibas tells us what experts say needs to be considered before any law goes into effect.

NEW YORK -- Timothy McNeish started smoking marijuana recreationally in high school. He started to notice, on days he smoked, his ADD symptoms seemed to get better.

"I'm more aware. I'm more in control of myself, my body and my thoughts. I'm better able to focus. I use marijuana and my life has improved. My grades are great. I'm involved in the community. I'm not just some lazy stoner," said Timothy McNeish, a marijuana user.

McNeish says he smokes almost on a nightly basis. He says he's tried several medications for his ADD, but none have worked as well as marijuana.

"It stunted my personality. It stunted my creativity. I didn't really feel like myself when I was on Concerta," said McNeish.

Medical marijuana is legal in 18 states. Depending on the state, it can be prescribed for nausea, pain, depression, and insomnia.

"There is a reason it can be used medicinally, but there are many, many, many other medications that can be used as well and work equally effectively. It has a lot of side effects. It interferes with the development of working memory. It also interferes with hand-eye coordination, peoples' ability to make good decisions," said Dr. Elizabeth Berry, a Crouse Hospital clinical psychologist.

While opponents are concerned about addiction and all the implications that surround that, those in favor of medicinal marijuana say that's a risk you run with any type of medication.

"Anything that becomes the central focus of your life and if you're smoking everyday when you wake up, that is certainly problematic. But I think it's time for a mature response at how we look at how we really look at for what reason is it illegal," said Dessa Bergen-Cico, a professor of Addiction Studies at Syracuse University's Department of Public Health.

"I think marijuana should be kept medicinal. Good for Washington and Colorado for legalizing it all the way, but I think that's kind of a dangerous move because people will abuse that," said McNeish.

Berry said, "This is a drug that has been over-prescribed and abused, and easily abused."

Berry says in California, doctors have often prescribed medical marijuana for cramps, headaches and even asthma.

Ethical experts say legalizing medical marijuana is something New York lawmakers are taking the time to look at carefully to avoid abuses seen in other states.

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