Exclusive: More Senators Back Limited Medical Marijuana

ELMA, N.Y. -- State Senator Patrick Gallivan (R-59th District) is the latest WNY lawmaker to support the limited legalization of medical marijuana, specifically to help children suffering from seizures.

"We're going to have to take some action one way or another," Gallivan told 2 On Your Side in an exclusive interview.

Gallivan admits his position has evolved. He previously opposed medical marijuana, but says the science guided his position.

"The science has changed," Gallivan said, referring to FDA trials now approved for a certain type of medical marijuana to treat children with intractable epilepsy.

What Gallivan supports is the high CBD oil type of medical marijuana. In Colorado, it's known as "Charlotte's Web," named after Charlotte Figi, the first patient.

The oil comes from a specially-grown plant that has extremely low levels of THC, the psychoactive part of pot that makes someone high.

In addition to FDA-approved medical trials, Gallivan also noted that the Epilepsy Foundation now supports the CBD oil.

"The Epilepsy Foundation believes that an end to seizures should not be determined by one's ZIP code," the organization said in a statement of support.

While Gallivan remains opposed to more broad medical marijuana legalization, there is a bill in the state legislature to do just that. It's called the "Compassionate Care Act."

2 On Your Side has profiled several families who support that bill. They tell us they're reviewing Gallivan's plan, but worry it's not comprehensive enough.

Gallivan says he's working with fellow lawmakers to either draft a new bill or pass amendments to pending legislation. He expects something will pass this session.

Also Monday, State Senator Mike Ranzenhofer told 2 On Your Side he is "receptive to the idea of providing access to the CBD oil highlighted by WGRZ's news story, especially for children with seizures."

We also heard from State Senator Cathy Young. In a statement, she said, "I fully support allowing the use of CBD oil for those with legitimate medical conditions who could benefit from it, especially children who suffer from dangerous seizures."

That means all 6 WNY state senators now support at least some type of medical marijuana. Five of those senators are Republicans. Recent polling that showed 88% of New Yorkers approve of the medication.

2 On Your Side research found the "Compassionate Care Act" has enough votes to pass in the senate. The problem is getting it out of the Committee on Health and to the floor. Repeated messages to Leader Dean Skelos' office have not been returned. Sources tell 2 On Your Side he is "single-handedly blocking the bill."

Family members have expressed their frustration with what's happening in Albany.

"The politics of it make our head spin," said Wendy Conte, whose daughter Anna sometimes has hundreds of seizures a day.

Wendy and other WNY families spent Monday in Albany lobbying lawmakers to pass the "Compassionate Care Act."

They met with Senators Gallivan, Maziarz, Grisanti, and others.

"We made some headway today," Conte said.

She knows something must happen quickly. She recently started the process to move to Colorado to get "Charlotte's Web" for her daughter. Anna's medication should be ready by October, when the family will likely move to the other side of the country. The only alternative is for lawmakers to act.


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