Deaths of Two NY Children Spur Attempt to Hasten Medical Marijuana Law

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo is seeking to advance the implementation of the medical marijuana provisions in the state’s Compassionate Care Act. In a letter to Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker, Cuomo asked whether it was possible to accelerate the availability of medical marijuana for the “specific dire population” of children suffering from epilepsy.

New York became the 23rd state to legalize medical marijuana when it passed the Compassionate Care Act earlier this year. The law legalized marijuana for patients with epilepsy and other conditions, but its implementation is not scheduled to occur for at least 18 months.

“Striking the right balance to ensure public safety and public health are protected is crucial,” Cuomo wrote, asking Zucker to determine if the planned 18-month implementation could be shortened.

Cuomo’s letter comes on the heels of the deaths of two children with epilepsy this month. Anna Conte, 9, was diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome at 10 months old, according to the Village Voice. After more than 14 failed medications, her mother Wendy had been arranging for a move to Colorado in the fall.

“Her plants would have been ready in October for me to move out there and try the high cannabidiol oil,” Wendy told the Village Voice, referring to a marijuana product that has given children 85 to 90 percent seizure reduction. “The chances are absolutely, 100 percent, Anna would have benefitted from this.” However, Anna fell into a coma after a seizure and passed away.

Olivia Marie Newton, whom Cuomo mentioned in his letter, passed away at age three.

“As a father, I can only imagine the pain Anna and Olivia’s parents have been going through and my thoughts and prayers are with them and their families,” Cuomo wrote. “Families with children struggling from epilepsy have fought for years for the passage of the Compassionate Care Act.  Now that it is finally law, the children struggling with this condition deserve every consideration we can make that could potentially ease their pain and suffering.”