Earlier this week, State Sen. Diane Savino, who is co-sponsoring a new bill to legalize medical marijuana, made a personal appeal to Governor Cuomo to reconsider the measure. Among other things in the letter, she invoked the memory of her parents, who both died of cancer. We spoke with the Staten Island Democrat, and she told us a little more about why she was motivated to write so personally, how she never thought she'd be praising NJ, and why she thinks Cuomo might be more open to the bill now.

Savino explained that she had supported the legislation, which was spearheaded by Sen. Thomas Duane, because she was someone who "has watched family members suffer incredible pain as a result of terminal illness...there's nothing [currently available] that can deal with the nausea of chemo therapy." She reasons that if medical marijuana can provide some level of relief, and in particular, act as an appetite stimulant, "we should do whatever is possible to remove the roadblocks for distribution of medical marijuana."

She believes that modern medicine, such as the incredibly addictive drug morphine, has failed to fully alleviate the pain and symptoms suffered by terminally (and chronically) ill patients; in addition, it leaves them spending most of their time sleeping, therefore detracting from their quality of life during whatever amount of time they have left. "We're not reinventing the wheel. Twenty-one other states have approved it...if you have lifelong debilitating chronic illness like MS, where there's very little that can be done to slow the disease, why would we say no?"

We asked what she thought Gov. Cuomo meant when he previously said "The dangers of medical marijuana outweigh the benefits," but she was as confused as we were: "He may have been reacting to the problems that occurred when California implemented medical marijuana. But we dont have to replicate the programs California put into place." She added that it's important to note that Cuomo is no longer outright rejecting the proposal, telling reporters yesterday that he's "always learning and listening, talking and growing - we hope."

Overall, Savino thinks the bill has a much better chance at succeeding this year...and part of the reason is because NJ has successfully passed a medical marijuana bill: "I never thought I'd see the day I'd be praising what NJ has done." If anything, she hopes that NJ's progressive measures in the public health area can stoke the fires of Cuomo's competitive nature. She also pointed to polls in SI Advance and Crain's Business Week which strongly suggest people are ready for legalization.

Savino also made it clear that there is a "clear distinction" between decriminalizing pot and legalizing medical marijuana, and that conflating the two is ridiculous. We asked her how she felt about decriminalizing pot, and she told us she wasn't entirely sure where she stood on the issue yet, but was open to the idea:

I was a strong proponent of repealing the Rockefeller Drug Laws. For too long, we've treated addiction as a character defect. We've wasted billion and billions of dollars trying to control the supply of drugs, when we've never been able to control the demand.

If were being honest, we should admit the war on drugs has been a failure. Maybe it's something we should look at. Certainly, keeping it criminal has not prevented anyone from buying, using, and manipulating them.