New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has asked the federal government for special permission to import medical marijuana from other states.
Cuomo originally contacted US Attorney General Eric Holder in early August on this subject, then followed up last week with a second letter directed to Deputy Attorney General James Cole. The governor wants to import limited amounts of certain cannabis strains — such as the CBD-centric Charlotte’s Web — which are specialized for treating children and young adults who suffer from severe cases of epilepsy.
Since New York’s medical marijuana bill was passed in July, at least three such children have died waiting for the program to take effect. Worse yet, the program must face a variety of bureaucratic obstacles before opening, and isn’t expected to launch until, at the earliest, January, 2016.
State health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker wrote a letter of his own to Attorney General Cole. “This is an extremely important issue to us, and it well help many children and young adults,” he wrote. “As a pediatrician myself, I cannot urge you enough to consider this exception to the present law as we all only want the best for these young patients.”
While MMJ advocates are supportive of the governor’s request, many believe that he could have done more to help the seriously ill children. New York citizen Missy Miller is the mother of a child who suffers from regular, severe seizures. In a video describing the situation her family faces, she explained:
“My son Oliver, who has severe seizures from a brain stem injury, cannot wait much longer to get the medicine he needs. We asked Governor Cuomo to try a number of things to create an emergency access program after he removed language from the bill that would do just that. While reaching out to the DOJ is a meaningful first step, there are other additional steps he can and should take to get Oliver and other critically ill children the medicine they need ASAP. He needs to realize that every day that passes we lose more of Oliver to these seizures.”
As Miller described, the MMJ bill’s original wording included a provision to allow for emergency access to medical marijuana; the governor, however, removed this section of the bill before signing, adding in its place the stipulation that only marijuana products made in New York would be legal for patient use, making marijuana products from other states (like the ones he’s now specifically asking for) strictly illegal.
Therefore — in a painfully ironic twist — the state of New York will actually need further legislative action to carry out Cuomo’s plan, if the DOJ decides to allow the governor’s requests.
Meanwhile, Kate Hintz — the parent of another child suffering from a severe seizure disorder — described the governor’s responsibility to his citizens with blunt honesty:
“We are glad to see that the governor has engaged DOJ about the need to establish an interim, emergency access program for those who cannot afford to wait for full implementation to occur. Now, we need the governor to move forward on other avenues that might also help get medicine to those who need it. The governor has a moral obligation to try absolutely everything in his power to prevent New Yorkers from needlessly suffering.”
Photo Credit: Diana Robinson