National Epilepsy Foundation Calls for Federal and State Policy Change to Increase Access to Medical Marijuana

Press Release February 20, 2014
Media Contact

<p>Contact:&nbsp; Tony Papa 646-420-7290 or gabriel sayegh 646-335-2264</p>

New York – Yesterday, the National Epilepsy Foundation issued a release calling for federal and state-level policy changes to increase access to medical marijuana. Citing the injustice that patients in some states are being denied treatment that is available to patients in other states, the foundation called for changes to state and federal laws to increase access to medical marijuana. In New York, the legislature is considering the Compassionate Care Act, which would alleviate the suffering of seriously ill New Yorkers by allowing them access to a small amount of medical marijuana under the supervision of a healthcare provider. The bill has passed the Assembly four times but is stalled in the Senate, where Senate Co-presidents Skelos and Klein have thus far refused to allow the bill to the floor for a vote.

The announcement by the Epilepsy Foundation adds to the growing momentum in New York for passage of the Compassionate Care Act. This week, two cancer support groups — 1 in 9: The Long Island Breast Cancer Action Coalition and the Breast Cancer Network of Western New York —  endorsed the Compassionate Care Act, joining national organizations and more than 60 organizations across New York that support the bill, including the New York State Nurses Association, the New York State Psychological Association, the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York, the New York State Breast Cancer Network, the Latino AIDS Commission, the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester, the, Multiple Sclerosis Resources of Central NY, Capital Region Action Against Breast Cancer, Physicians for Compassionate Care, and many more.

Earlier this week, a Quinnipiac poll found that 88% of New York voters support medical marijuana, including super-majorities of Democrats and Republicans. And two Republican Senators, Maziarz and Grisanti, this week declared their support for the Compassionate Care Act and called for a vote in the Senate.

Geri Barish, President of 1 in 9: The Long Island Breast Cancer Action Coalition said: "Like dozens of other organizations across the state, we are supporting the Compassionate Care Act because it will help to alleviate the pain and suffering of, not only the cancer patients we see on a daily basis, but other seriously ill New Yorkers. It will provide proper access to medication to give some relief to those we love, and those who suffer from pain have waited too long. We ask the Senate to vote yes on this bill."

Even as momentum is building, patients with serious and debilitating conditions continue to suffer. Some patients and their families are even forced to leave New York and relocate to one of the twenty states where medical marijuana is legal. “I am extremely moved and thankful that organizations like the Epilepsy Foundation are supporting the implementation of comprehensive medical marijuana laws that can help our children,” said Kate Hintz of North Salem whose daughter Morgan has a severe seizure disorder. “I strongly agree with the Epilepsy Foundation that having access to relief for seizures should not be determined by one’s zip code. I am currently left with no other option than to give my child prescription medications that I know are not effective and that grossly impair her ability to function. There is overwhelming evidence that certain preparations of medical marijuana are not only effective anti-convulsants, but have far less negative side effects.  Unfortunately, we are not able to try medical marijuana, even with our doctor's support, because it is not yet legal to do so in New York. I refuse to uproot my family and move thousands of miles away when I know that this treatment is overwhelmingly supported by the majority of New Yorkers.  It is imperative that the NY Senate follow the example and recommendations of the Epilepsy Foundation by creating safe access to medical marijuana for patients with severe epilepsy, like my daughter Morgan.”

“I would like to be able to recommend medical marijuana for my patients who could benefit,” said Dr. Sunil Aggarwal, Co-chair of NY Physicians for Compassionate Care, which represents more than 600 doctors who support medical marijuana in New York.  “Unfortunately, despite the strong scientific evidence that medical marijuana can benefit patients with a number of serious and debilitating conditions, including cancer and MS, the New York State Senate is standing in the way of doctors doing what they know is best for our patients.”

“We’re excited that the Epilepsy Foundation has joined a growing list of respected national organizations supporting medical marijuana, and we’re downright thrilled that 1 in 9 and the Breast Cancer Network of Western New York have endorsed the Compassionate Care Act,” said gabriel sayegh, state director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Given all this local and national support, including by New York voters, it’s hard to imagine what the hold-up is in Albany. The Senate’s failure to pass this bill is increasingly incomprehensible and, frankly, inhumane.  People across our state are suffering. It’s time for the Senate to pass the Compassionate Care Act.”

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

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