Will Gustin L. Reichbach, Pot-Smoking Judge, Get In Trouble for Using Medical Marijuana? (UPDATE)

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State Supreme Court Judge Gustin L. Reichbach outed himself as a pot-smoker in a New York Times op-ed today.

Reichbach, you see, has battled pancreatic cancer for three and a half years. His current treatment includes high doses of chemotherapy, which leads to constant pain, nausea, insomnia, and loss of appetite. Reichbach says that cannabis is the only thing that makes him feel more comfortable, so that he can eat and sleep.

He has since decided to speak out in favor of legalization, saying: "This is not a law-and-order issue; it is a medical and a human rights issue...When palliative care is understood as a fundamental human and medical right, marijuana for medical use should be beyond controversy."

Reichbach has recognized the conflict inherent in his position. He still serves as a judge, and medical marijuana isn't legal in New York. (Possessing small amounts, however, is considered a violation and not a criminal offense.) He counters that "criminalizing an effective medical technique affects the fair administration of justice, I feel obliged to speak out as both a judge and a cancer patient suffering with a fatal disease."

The Voice wondered: Could Reichbach get in trouble for this confession?

So we took a look at the New York Court system's rules for judicial conduct .

What did they say?

From Section 100.1:

"A judge shall uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary

An independent and honorable judiciary is indispensable to justice in our society. A judge should participate in establishing, maintaining and enforcing high standards of conduct, and shall personally observe those standards so that the integrity and independence of the judiciary will be preserved. The provisions of this Part 100 are to be construed and applied to further that objective."


And from section 100.2:

"A judge shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all of the judge's activities.

(A) A judge shall respect and comply with the law and shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.

(B) A judge shall not allow family, social, political or other relationships to influence the judge's judicial conduct or judgment.

(C) A judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others; nor shall a judge convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge. A judge shall not testify voluntarily as a character witness.

(D) A judge shall not hold membership in any organization that practices invidious discrimination on the basis of age, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, disability or marital status. This provision does not prohibit a judge from holding membership in an organization that is dedicated to the preservation of religious, ethnic, cultural or other values of legitimate common interest to its members.

So yeah...it's a bit unclear.

Across the U.S., there have been several high-profile cases involving judges' marijuana use. A Texas judge, for example, recently resigned after he was reportedly caught smoking pot in a hotel room. At first, he refused to step down, and argued that it eased diabetes-related food pain.

The Voice reached out to the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct to find out more about this. We're also trying to contact Reichbach. We'll update when we hear back.

UPDATE: The Commission has refused to comment on Reichbach.

Follow Victoria Bekiempis @vicbekiempis.

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9 comments
Pete
Pete

Would be really interesting to know how many ppl he locked up for weed. Shame it had to come so far for him to speak up.

Marmullowney
Marmullowney

Thank God for people like like his honor Agustin reichbach. I am sorry to hear it takes a terminal illness to bring this subject to light again/still. I hope his honest and heart wrenching story can be of help for not only the cancer sufferers but a multitude of individuals who are forced to break the law just to find some relief from suffering. I for one think this man is very brave to come forward on this issue. Let's hope he can give the issue the momentum needed to push this. into being legalized God bless you Your Honor and may you find peace and comfort.

macewan
macewan

Shame he waited until he needed it before speaking out. If more DEA or members of Congress had cancer then maybe things would change. Hrm...

Acronombe2012
Acronombe2012

How many people did he send to prison for marijuana before he decided it was ok for him to use it himself?

alex
alex

Nonsense.  Judges are limited as to political activity.  And the judge must obey the legislature's law when carrying out his official duties.  Justice Reichbach was the judge who refused to fine prostitutes, saying that he wouldn't act as the State's pimp.

Butch John
Butch John

that was also my first thought. amazing how the deadly weed turns becomes a medicinal herb when a person in position of authority is suffering. I live in Kentucky,  have had eight back surgeries and live every day on the couch. I used morphine in small doses. I'd trade it in a heartbeat for something safer and more effective. Guess it has to have a brand name on it before it's legalized.

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