Patients, Family Members Gather in Albany to Launch Month of Actions in Support of Comprehensive Medical Marijuana Bill

Press Release March 2, 2014
Media Contact

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

NEW YORK: Today, patients, families, caregivers and healthcare providers gathered in Albany to launch March for Compassion, a month of activities and events held around New York to demand the State Senate to past the Compassionate Care Act — A.6357-A (Gottfried) / S.4406-A (Savino) – by April 1. The patients are living with cancer, multiple sclerosis, and other serious, debilitating medical conditions, and the families include parents of children who suffer from severe forms of epilepsy, such as Dravet’s syndrome. They are available for interviews.  
While Albany dithers and delays, patients are suffering and families are leaving the state. Today, a major story in the Buffalo News by Tom Precious illustrates how many families and patients in New York are leaving the state for places like Colorado, where they can access medical marijuana. Patients, caregivers and healthcare providers, tired of waiting for Albany to take action, are launching March for Compassion today, a month-long series of events across the state. Events include public educational seminars, lawmaker education meetings, lobby days in Albany, and press conferences.

“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."

 “My family is in the process of leaving our home in Orchard Park, NY and relocating to Colorado because the New York state senate has refused to pass the Compassionate Care Act,” said Wendy Conte whose daughter Anna has Dravet’s syndrome, a rare and serious seizure disorder. “It’s unconscionable that families like mine are forced to choose between watching our children suffer needlessly or moving out of state to get a medication that could save lives.  I urge the Co-presidents Klein and Skelos to stop playing politics with our lives and bring the bill up for a vote."

“I traveled to Albany from Auburn, New York because I want our elected leaders to see firsthand what a medical marijuana patient looks like,” said Susan Rusinko of Auburn, who is living with multiple sclerosis. “Medical marijuana helps me remain active and contribute to my family and my community.  The NY Senate needs to stop playing politics and pass the Compassionate Care Act immediately.”

Momentum is building to pass the comprehensive measure – including among Republicans. In the last two weeks, Senators Maziarz, Grisanti and Robach have all announced their support for the bill, which would create one of the nation’s most tightly regulated medical marijuana programs, with Maziarz calling for an up-or-down vote.

“Thousands of seriously ill people across the state, including me, could benefit from medical marijuana,” said Donna Romano of Syracuse. “A lot of people who could benefit are too ill to travel to Albany, but we are here on behalf of all those who could benefit. We have suffered long enough. It’s time for Senate Co-presidents Klein and Skelos to let the senate vote on this important bill."

“I traveled all the way from the Buffalo area to be here, so I could talk directly to our elected leaders about my son Tommy, who suffers from severe seizures that could likely be helped by medical cannabis,” said Buc Williams of Lockport. “I don’t understand why the senate keeps delaying. My son’s doctors have told me that he should try medical marijuana as soon as possible. Every day the senate fails to act is another day of seizures that threaten my son’s life."

“While I wasn’t able to travel to Albany today with my son Oliver because of the weather, I want the leadership in Albany to know that we won’t stop pressing them to pass the Compassionate Care Act until they do the right thing and allow the bill to come to the senate floor for a vote,” said Missy Miller of Atlantic Beach, whose son Oliver suffers from life-threatening seizures. “We elected these people to represent us, and with 88% of New York voters supporting medical marijuana, I can’t understand why they continue to deny seriously ill patients, like my son, access to a medication that could help.”

A super-majority of New York voters – 88% — support allowing patients to access medical marijuana, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll. More than 65 organizations and nearly 650 physicians have endorsed New York’s comprehensive medical marijuana bill – the Compassionate Care Act.

“We’re here in Albany to launch March for Compassion to send a message loud in clear to the Senate that it must pass the Compassionate Care Act,” said gabriel sayegh, New York State director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “All month we will be engaging in events from Buffalo to Long Island that highlight the stories of patients and their families. The longer the Senate delays, the longer New Yorkers will continue to suffer. It’s time to pass the Compassionate Care Act.”

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

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