Cuomo Updates Criminal Justice Issues

Judge's Widow Grateful for Marijuana Plan

, New York Law Journal

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivering his fourth annual State of the State address
Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivering his fourth annual State of the State address at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany Wednesday.

Michael Kennedy, a criminal defense lawyer in Manhattan and Reichbach's close personal friend, said he and the judge discussed the implications of going public with his illegal use of marijuana.

"During the last several months of his life, he said he would really like to write something because marijuana had become so significant in allowing him to be able to sleep, to regain an appetite and gave him a better quality of life," he said.

Kennedy said Reichbach asked about the immediate repercussions of admitting that he, a sitting judge, was openly violating the law, and also about potential impact on his pension if he went public. But the judge ultimately concluded that the value of going public would transcend any consequence from his civil disobedience, Kennedy said.

"He tried marijuana because of the devastating impact of the therapy," Kennedy said. "It was quite an awareness, a eureka moment, when after one session of chemotherapy he actually lit up and enjoyed a joint and within minutes began to calm down, the nausea was leaving him and within an hour an appetite that was nearly gone had returned to the point where he could eat lightly. But most importantly, at night he could have a puff and actually go to sleep. These were blessings beyond belief for him."

Kennedy said Reichbach never used marijuana while working or prior to taking the bench. He said the judge never regretted penning the op-ed.

"One of the things he felt most heartened by is the response he got from fellow judges and lawyers and people who suffered, not only in this country, but Europe and Canada," Kennedy said. "It was so fulfilling and he said, 'I may have found my legacy.' That's how proud he was of the piece. And I think that legacy is bearing fruit."

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