N.Y. lawmakers want faster medical-marijuana process
ALBANY Members of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration met this week with about a dozen advocates for medical marijuana as some lawmakers call on him to speed up the state’s issuance of the plant*.
Deputy Secretary for Health Courtney Burke and Howard Zucker, acting commission of the state Department of Health, were among those who met Monday with the advocates, all of whom were active in convincing Cuomo and lawmakers to approve the state’s new medical-marijuana law in June.
Late last week, the sponsors of the bill wrote to Cuomo, urging him to consider different ways to get the drug to terminally ill patients more quickly. Under the new law, the Department of Health has 18 months to get the state’s medical-marijuana system up and running.
Kate Hintz, a resident of North Salem, Westchester County, said the purpose of the meeting was to keep lines of communication open with advocates as the state begins to implement its program.
“I’m pleased that they have opened a dialogue with advocates and parents, such as myself,” said Hintz, who was part of the meeting Monday. “I think that there are ways that we can safely and efficaciously provide medicine sooner than an 18 month time period.”
Hintz’ daughter Morgan, 3, suffers from Dravet Syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy. She suffers from multiple seizures a day while adhering to a strict diet, and her mother is hopeful an oil-based marijuana derivative could help calm the condition.
State lawmakers passed the medical-marijuana bill in June, and Cuomo signed it into law soon after. It allows the drug in non-smokeable form for patients who suffer from serious diseases or conditions — including HIV and epilepsy — and gives broad authority to the Department of Health to regulate it.
Sen. Diane Savino, D-Staten Island, and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan—who were the prime sponsors of the medical-marijuana bill—sent a letter Saturday to Cuomo, pressuring him to take action to get the drug to epileptic children and the terminally ill sooner.
The letter was also signed by Sen. Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo. It came in response to the death earlier this month of Anna Conte, a 9-year-old girl from the Buffalo area who suffered from Dravet Syndrome and whose parents lobbied lawmakers to pass the law.
“We saw that during that time, some number of Dravet Syndrome babies will die,” the lawmakers wrote. “Other patients’ conditions will worsen and some will die. We must get relief to these children sooner than that. This is a public health emergency.”
The lawmakers urged Cuomo to push to allow the state to obtain marijuana from other states in order to get it to patients in dire need.
But, they acknowledge, there’s a potential problem: The federal government doesn’t allow the drug to be transported across state lines.
In Buffalo on Monday, Cuomo said his office is “looking at” the issue.
“We want to do it as quickly as possible, but we need to do it right,” Cuomo said. “We have an 18-month timeframe in the legislation that was passed. If it can be accelerated safely, then we will do that.”
*I changed word ‘drug’ to ‘plant’. RESPECT!