BUFFALO, NY-- A public hearing was held Thursday on legalizing medical marijuana in New York State.
Two local families were among those presenting their case to state lawmakers, in an effort to see New York become the 21st state to legalize marijuana for medicinal use.
Both families shared their stories, and explained how medical marijuana could help ease the hundreds of seizures their children suffer each week. 2 On Your Side spoke to those families before the hearing.
About 100 attended the public hearing, chaired by NYS Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan), whose bill to legalize medicinal marijuana in New York passed the Assembly last year, but failed to pass muster in the Senate.
Among those testifying were parents with sick children who desperately want it,...others from places outside of New York who've gotten it and say it has helped ....and at least one physician who said, New York should tread carefully before approving this.
"I don't discount the experience of people in other states who found it dramatically helpful," said Dr. Robert Whitney from the Erie County Council for the Prevention of Alcohol and Substance Abuse. "But that's not scientifically valid that's not the kind of solid information that ought to be the basis for legislative public health action."
At one point in the hearing, Gottfried had to compose himself, after he was nearly moved to tears by the emotional stories and impassioned pleas of families whose children suffer from maladies, and who literally begged for action,
"I'm sorry...," he told those in attendance while pausing and breathing deeply. "Children do this to me."
Proponents of the measure to legalize medical marijuana noted that strains have been developed that make in "non-psychotic" therefore eliminating the desire to use it for recreational purposes as some fear will happen.
"In this form, this is not a drug that has a lot of potential for abuse," said Paige Figi, who traveled from Colorado to testify. The marijuana form being used to treat her daughter's severe seizure disorder, called Charlotte's Web, was actually named after her daughter.
Figi described the results as being nothing short of miraculous.
"We started Charlotte on the therapy and she instantly went seven days seizure free from the first dose. Now we're two years into this treatment, she remains 99.9% seizure free," she said.
Gottfried told those assembled however, that even if his bill were passed at the start of the next legislative session and signed into law by Governor Cuomo (who has in the past stated his opposition to medical marijuana), it might take two years to establish protocols for its distribution.
He suggested that if medical marijuana were to be legalized, that efforts be made to expedite its administration to the most gravely ill individuals whose doctors think it might help.
"It takes us in New York sometimes a year or two to change a light bulb in government...well that's just not good enough," he said, to a thunderous ovation from the mostly pro-medicinal marijuana audience.
Click on the video player to watch our story from 2 on Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Dave Harrington. Follow Dave on Twitter:@DaveMcKinley2