Medical Marijuana Dropped from State Budget, Leaving Patients to Suffer

Press Release March 30, 2014
Media Contact

<p>Contact:&nbsp; Tony Newman 646-335-5384 or gabriel sayegh 646-335-2264</p>

Albany – On Saturday, Governor Cuomo, Speaker Sheldon Silver, and Senate Co-Presidents Dean Skelos and Jeffrey Klein announced that they had reach a budget agreement, but the deal excluded the Compassionate Care Act, a bill that would allow seriously ill New Yorkers access to medical marijuana under the supervision of their healthcare provider. The Assembly had included the proposal as part of their one-house budget bill, but the Senate and Governor refused to include the bill in the final budget. The Compassionate Care Act has passed the Assembly four times, has bi-partisan support in the Senate, and is supported by a super-majority of New York voters. But senate leaders have refused to let the bill come up for a vote.

Patients, providers and caregivers were frustrated to learn that once again the legislature refused to show the sick suffering some compassion and mercy. They urged immediate action by the Senate to pass the Compassionate Care Act as a stand-alone bill.

Missy Miller from Atlantic Beach, whose son Oliver suffers from life-threatening seizures, said: “Frankly, I’m disgusted that they are playing politics in Albany, while my son’s life hangs in the balance. This is medication that could help him and thousands of others. Every day the senate fails to act is day that puts my son’s life in jeopardy.  They must pass this bill, and they must do it immediately.”

The efficacy of medical cannabis for treating a range of conditions and symptoms —  including those associated with epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, and cancer —  is well-established. Twenty states and the District of Columbia have medical marijuana programs.

"As a physician who knows medical cannabis could help patients in New York, I'm disappointed that the compassionate care act was not included as part of the budget," said Sunil Aggarwal, MD, PhD, co-chair of NY Physicians for Compassionate Care, which represents more than 600 New York physicians who support medical marijuana. "The science is clear, and physicians in New York want another tool to help patients with serious illnesses, such as cancer, MS, HIV/AIDS, and epilepsy. It's time for the senate to step up and pass the Compassionate Care Act without further delay."

“As a woman living with HIV, I have experienced first-hand the effects of medical marijuana in combating nausea, stimulating appetite and alleviating suffering due to neuropathic pain,” said Wanda Hernandez of the Bronx. “I'm an independent Latina living with chronic illness and disability. Making it on my own is hard enough, I'm asking that New York State stop treating me like a criminal for using medical marijuana as another tool to function as a mother, grandmother and community member.”

Twenty states, including all of those surrounding New York except Pennsylvania, have passed medical marijuana laws to ease the suffering of their sickest citizens.

“As someone living with multiple sclerosis, I can’t understand why the New York state legislature continues to make our sickest citizens suffer needlessly,” said Donna Romano of Syracuse, a Vietnam-era veteran, mother, and grandmother. “If eighty-eight percent of New York voters support this, and it can help those of us struggling every day with serious illnesses, why does the senate continue to delay a vote?”

The Compassionate Care Act, which would create one of the country’s most tightly regulated medical marijuana programs, has strong bi-partisan support.

“As someone living with stage four metastatic breast cancer, it’s hard for me to fathom why the New York state senate is denying me access to a medication that helps me tolerate the side effects of my chemotherapy and improve the quality of my life,” said Beverly McClain of Canaan. “I can’t believe that our state legislature is making criminals out of our sickest citizens. I beg the New York Senate to show a little mercy and compassion and pass the Compassionate Care Act without further delay."

In recent weeks, four Republican senators have come out publicly in support of the legislation, and Senator George Maziarz (R – Newfane) has called for an up and down vote in the senate.

“It’s incredibly disappointing that the Compassionate Care did not pass as part of the budget,” said gabriel sayegh, state director for the Drug Policy Alliance.  “People are sick and suffering, and some are dying needlessly while the senate continues to stall. Medical marijuana has the support of the scientific evidence, the healthcare community, almost 90% of New York voters, and senators from both sides of the aisle. How much longer does Albany need to make up its mind? Patients, caregivers and providers will not rest until this bill is passed. It’s time for co-leaders Klein and Skelos finally show the sick suffering some mercy and allow a vote on the Compassionate Care Act.”

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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