News / Health

New York Medical Marijuana Law Excludes Some Seeking the Drug

Missy Miller sits with her epileptic son, Oliver (R), in their home near Atlantic Beach, New York, Jan. 7, 2014.
Missy Miller sits with her epileptic son, Oliver (R), in their home near Atlantic Beach, New York, Jan. 7, 2014.
Reuters
When New York moves ahead with its planned legalization of medical marijuana for the chronically ill, Missy Miller's epileptic son Oliver will be left behind.
 
Oliver suffered a brain stem injury in utero and now, at 14, has hundreds of seizures a day. For months, his family has pinned their hopes on a strain of marijuana developed in Colorado that has helped children with similar conditions.
 
But under an executive order by Governor Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday making New York the 21st state to allow medical marijuana, it will remain illegal to grow marijuana or to import specialized plants from other states. The order limits the number of hospitals that can dispense marijuana and allows its use only to treat diseases such as cancer and glaucoma, according to several people briefed on the plan.
 
Patients will have little say in the marijuana they are prescribed and people like Oliver - who could benefit from a specialized strain known as Charlotte's Web that is high in the compound cannabidiol, or CBD, - would be cut out entirely.
 
“With this one medication, it's stopping their seizures or dramatically reducing their seizures,” said Miller, 49, as her son lay in a playpen in their home near Atlantic Beach, east of New York City.
 
Caveat

While anecdotal evidence gives reasons for patients to be encouraged by the use of the strain, doctors urge caution.
 
Orrin Devinsky, an epilepsy expert at New York University who has treated Oliver, said data about the safety and effectiveness of “Charlotte's Web” is scant.
 
“In medicine, the roadside is littered with drugs and compounds and plants that people have sworn by,” said Devinsky, who is preparing a clinical trial using a nearly pure form of CBD. “The available data right now in humans is anecdotal - single cases where there could be a tremendous amount of bias in the results.”
 
Cuomo's announcement comes one week after Colorado began allowing the sale of marijuana for recreational use. A second state, Washington, will follow suit later this year.
 
The move is an about-face for Cuomo, who previously opposed marijuana legalization, but the Democrat has not come under the same pressure as his counterpart in neighboring New Jersey.
 
There, Governor Chris Christie in September signed a bill loosening rules on medical marijuana access for sick children. Dubbed “pot for tots,” by tabloids, Christie approved it one month after he was confronted by the parents of a two-year-old girl who suffers from a form of epilepsy.
 
The family has since said they will move to Colorado where marijuana is sold in edible form, while in New Jersey it may only be sold in smokable form.
 
Medical marijuana has long faced an uphill battle in New York state.
 
'Limited' move
 
The Compassionate Care Act, which provides for medical marijuana, has come up repeatedly in the state legislature since 1997, and has been approved by the state assembly four times. But it has never made it to a vote in the State Senate.
 
State Assemblymen Richard Gottfried, a leading proponent of medical marijuana, called Cuomo's order a “key interim step.” He said he planned to introduce a more comprehensive measure.
 
“The law is very limited and cumbersome and will leave out a lot of people,” said Gottfried.
 
The Charlotte's Web strain of marijuana, which the Millers have placed such hope in, comes from a medical marijuana dispensary in Colorado Springs called Indispensary.
 
The product, which comes as an oil, is low in THC, the psychoactive compound that gives users the feeling of being high, and has close to no value to traditional marijuana consumers. But others tout the medicinal value of CBD.
 
A Gallup poll in October found, for the first time, a clear majority of Americans - 58 percent - favor legalizing marijuana, while 38 percent of Americans admitted they had tried the drug. A Siena College poll in May found that 82 percent of New Yorkers support legalizing medical marijuana.
 
Potential
 
On Tuesday, on the eve of Cuomo's announcement, Miller led Oliver through their home from his playpen - a cheerfully decorated space under a row of enlarged family portraits - across the living room.
 
Standing at 1.3 meters (4 feet 5 inches) with bouncy curls that fall almost to his shoulders, Oliver is about as tall as his mother, who struggled to help him stand upright. At one point, Oliver froze up and Miller explained he was having a seizure.
 
“All done,” the boy said a moment later, and they continued.
 
“Oliver has a lot of other medical problems, and we've been very successful at overcoming” many of them, said Miller. “The one thing we haven't been able to get any control over are these seizures. And, in spite of all these other medical problems, these are stealing him from us.”
 
Miller, who has a healthy 19-year-old daughter, learned the extent of Oliver's health issues when he was a few weeks old. She had already lost one child, at the age of 7, and took multiple tests to ensure she would have a healthy baby.
 
Oliver is blind, cannot eat normally and has difficulty standing on his own or walking. As he grows up, Miller's main concern is that Oliver's seizures could damage his brain severely and further limit his quality of life.
 
Their lives have been a constant process of trying new medications and Miller said she is cautiously optimistic about Charlotte's Web marijuana.
 
“You see the glimpses of what he is,” said Miller. “I just want him to have and to meet his full potential.”

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

1855 Slave Brochure Starkly Details Sale of Black Americans

Document lists entire families that were up for sale in New Orleans, offering graphic insight into the slavery trade More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: dave from: nyc
January 09, 2014 1:05 PM
Cuomos efforts will kill the compassionate care act- for Republicans like Skelos or Libous will have an excuse to ignore a democratic bill-now that Cuomo hasn’t given them an opportunity to weigh in legislatively on his plan. Cuomos plan is arbitrary and will deny too many who could benefit from medical marijauana. Furthermore the crippling ignorance of doctors in NYS lead to the opioid crises and NYS being rated one of the worst statees in the Nation in pain care- so once again we can count on doctors to misprescribe medical marijuana. NYS just cant get it right when it comes to medical care for people in pain or using medications like marijuana for the public good.

by: Andrew Zebrun III from: WNY
January 08, 2014 6:35 PM
Please make cannabis widely available. My dad, Andrew Zebrun Jr. served in WWII becoming gravely injured. I watched him suffer, and die of his wounds. A simple plant grown much like a tomato could've helped him. Please give our heroic veterans, and all suffering patients a healthy gift, cannabis, can, cure...

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs