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Brooklyn Judge Admits He Broke the Law, Smoked Pot in Battle Against Pancreatic Cancer

Posted May 17, 2012 9:05 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Judge Gustin Reichbach of Brooklyn has survived three and a half years after his diagnosis of Stage 3 pancreatic cancer, and he credits medical marijuana for aiding him in the battle.

Though the substance is banned for medical use in New York, Reichbach says in a New York Times op-ed that he used it anyway.

“Nausea and pain are constant companions,” he wrote. “One struggles to eat enough to stave off the dramatic weight loss that is part of this disease. Eating, one of the great pleasures of life, has now become a daily battle, with each forkful a small victory. Every drug prescribed to treat one problem leads to one or two more drugs to offset its side effects. Pain medication leads to loss of appetite and constipation. Anti-nausea medication raises glucose levels, a serious problem for me with my pancreas so compromised. Sleep, which might bring respite from the miseries of the day, becomes increasingly elusive.

“Inhaled marijuana is the only medicine that gives me some relief from nausea, stimulates my appetite, and makes it easier to fall asleep.”

Reichbach says friends questioned his decision to come out on the issue, since he is a sitting judge still hearing cases. But he felt compelled to give voice to the plight of cancer sufferers. He is backing a bill pending in the state legislature to allow medical marijuana there. "Medical science has not yet found a cure, but it is barbaric to deny us access to one substance that has proved to ameliorate our suffering," he says. "This is not a law-and-order issue; it is a medical and a human rights issue."

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