Governor directs health dept. to speed up medical marijuana for kids with seizures

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday sent a letter to the acting commissioner of the Department of Health asking the agency to "determine if there is any way to accelerate the process" to get medical marijuana to children suffering from life-threatening seizures.

The letter referenced the deaths of Western New York children who passed away while waiting for the medication.

"Striking the right balance to ensure public safety and public health are protected is crucial," Cuomo said in the letter.

Cuomo's directive comes two days after his office and the state's health commissioner met with a dozen advocates for medical marijuana, who pushed the state to implement the program more quickly.

Under a new state law passed in June, the Department of Health has 18 months to get the marijuana program up and running.

On Saturday, the sponsors of the medical-marijuana bill—Sen. Diane Savino, D-Staten Island, and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan—sent a letter to Cuomo, urging him to push the federal government to allow the state to obtain marijuana from other states to get to terminally ill patients sooner. The letter, which was also signed by Sen. Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo, cited the recent death of a 9-year-old girl suffering from Dravet Syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy that begins in infancy.

2 On Your Side questioned the governor about medical marijuana on Monday. He would not commit at that point to speeding up the process, but his stance has now partially changed.

"I look forward to hearing of any progress you can make to provide relief to the children of our state living with epilepsy," the letter said.


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