New York lawmakers who prefer more stringent medical marijuana laws now have a new unlikely adversary -- Supreme Court Justice Gustin Reichbach.
In a somewhat surprising disclosure, Reichbach revealed on Thursday that he uses illegally-obtained marijuana to counteract the side-effects from his pancreatic cancer treatments. He insists that it’s the only thing that gives him any sort of relief from his pains and troubles, and maintains that keeping the stuff away from people -- like him -- who clearly need it is just straight up cruel.
“Inhaled marijuana is the only medicine that gives me some relief from nausea, stimulates my appetite, and makes it easier to fall asleep,” he wrote in an op-ed in the New York Times. “It is barbaric to deny [cancer patients] access to one substance that has proved to ameliorate our suffering.”
Reichbach, 65, has presided over cases involving illegal drug possession. Apparently, though, that doesn’t render him incapable of drawing the distinction between preventing people who need something from getting it, and preventing people who just want to blaze recreationally from doing their thing. (Which is a topic for another day.)
Originally, doctors told Reichbach that he only had a few months to live. That was three and a half years ago.
“My survival has demanded an enormous price, including months of chemotherapy, radiation hell and brutal surgery,” he wrote.
Predictably, the blowback to Reichbach’s admission has already begun. Whereas some are commending him on his braveness and openness on this issue, others are befuddled as to why he would open himself up to the criticism. The detractors note that Reichbach’s legitimacy as a judge is now immediately in question given this latest development, and that he could potentially face some very serious consequences before all is said and done.
Of course, it’s worth noting that any sort of disciplinary action that could possibly be enacted would take at minimum a year to push through. And when you're told that you only have a few months to live, worrying about what will happen a year from now doesn’t make much sense.
But chalking up Reichbach’s stance to a dead man walking simply not giving a you-know-what anymore and going out in a blaze of glory (yup, I went there) is a very pessimistic way of looking at this situation. More likely is that, now that he realizes the importance of medical marijuana to those who desperately need it, Reichbach feels the onus is on him to use his stature and position in the limelight to educate folks on the topic. When Average Joe dealing with cancer says he needs medical marijuana to get by, he’s written off as a pothead looking to get hooked up. When a Supreme Court Justice says it, folks listen.
Will this ultimately change anything in the grand scheme of things, though? Time will tell.