Gillibrand pushes federal medical marijuana bill

AMHERST, N.Y. -- Senator Kirsten Gillibrand joined patients, their families and doctors in Amherst Monday to push her bill in Washington that would ease federal restrictions on medical marijuana.

Currently, federal law classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug. Gillibrand's bill would change that to Schedule II, opening it up for more research. The bill would also recognize state medical marijuana laws and allow patients to get the medicine in one state and use it in another, without fear of federal prosecution.

"The government should not prevent doctors from prescribing medicine that's been shown to work," Senator Gillibrand said.

Alongside her were parents with children who suffer from debilitating seizure disorders.

"She's a warrior," Lisa Valle said of her 7-year-old daughter Maya.

Buc Williams' son Tommy is on countless medications, yet he still has seizures.

"I think that the doctors and the patients should be making the medical decisions, not all the politicians," Williams said.

Wendy Conte, whose daughter Anna passed away last summer while waiting for access to the medicine, also spoke alongside Gillibrand.

"As I held Anna for the last time, I made a promise to her to continue to fight for all the other children who so desperately need and deserve this medication as a treatment option," Conte said.

Wendy and many others successfully lobbied the New York State Legislature and Governor Andrew Cuomo to pass the Compassionate Care Act, which legalized medical marijuana in the state. However, the program won't be up and running until next year. The families hope Gillibrand's federal proposal could bridge the gap, to provide emergency access while they wait for the New York program.

Dr. Laszlo Mechtler, medical director at Dent Neurological Institute and chair of Roswell Park's department of neuro-oncology, says doctors like himself should have the ability to prescribe medical marijuana in certain circumstances.

"Today's announcement is a giant step in allowing physicians the right to practice the art of medicine and the science of research," Dr. Mechtler said.

Gillibrand's proposal, called the CARERS Act of 2015, is sponsored in the Senate by Cory Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey. Gillibrand is one of 4 co-sponsors in the Senate, with two from each party on board.

In the U.S. House, the CARERS Act is sponsored by Representative Steve Cohen of Tennessee. It has 8 Democratic co-sponsors and 8 Republican co-sponsors.

Both proposals are currently in committees in their respective chambers.

"Frankly I would dare any U.S. senator to meet any of these families and not want to support this bill," Gillibrand said.


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