Yesterday, dozens of patients, caregivers and healthcare providers travelled from all corners of New York - including Buffalo, Long Island, Syracuse, Hudson Valley, and New York City - to call on the Senate to pass the comprehensive medical marijuana proposal known as Compassionate Care Act. The Compassionate Care Act would allow seriously ill New Yorkers access to medical marijuana under the supervision of their healthcare provider. The bill has passed the Assembly four times, was included in the Assembly's budget proposal, and has strong bi-partisan support in the Senate. But senate leaders have refused to let the bill come up for a vote.
Patients and caregivers were joined by faith leaders who called on senate to stop delaying to show the sick suffering some compassion and mercy.
"As a Bishop and spiritual caregiver in New York City, I have met and spoken with hundreds of New Yorkers who are suffering with chronic illnesses. It is my responsibility to them, and all New Yorkers to advocate for the passage of the Compassionate Care Act," said Bishop Dr. Michael Clark, Pastor at Redeemers Tabernacle and President of the NYPD 83rd Precinct Clergy Council. "The needless suffering of these patients and families from illnesses, such as multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, cancer, seizure disorders, and other conditions, goes against my beliefs. I join with the 88% percent of New Yorkers who believe medical marijuana should be an option for patients. The legislators in Albany should do what is right and show compassion to our sick."
A growing number of religious leaders have endorsed the Compassionate Care Act, understanding that, for some of their sick congregants, medical use of cannabis may be the only thing that eases their pain and suffering.
In addition to faith leaders, dozens of patients and parents of children with intractable forms of epilepsy travelled to Albany to urge passage of the bill.
"I can't believe that Co-presidents Klein and Skelos have not brought this bill up for a vote yet," said Missy Miller from Atlantic Beach, whose son Oliver suffers from life-threatening seizures. "Frankly, I'm disgusted that they are playing politics, while my son's life hangs in the balance. This is medication that could help him and thousands of others. Every day the senate fails to act is day that puts my son's life in jeopardy. They must pass this bill, and they must do it immediately."
The efficacy of medical cannabis for treating a range of conditions and symptoms -- including those associated with epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, and cancer -- is well-established. Twenty states and the District of Columbia have medical marijuana programs.
"As a woman living with HIV, I have experienced first-hand the effects of medical marijuana in combating nausea, stimulating appetite and alleviating suffering due to neuropathic pain," said Wanda Hernandez of the Bronx. "I'm an independent Latina living with chronic illness and disability. Making it on my own is hard enough, I'm asking that New York State stop treating me like a criminal for using medical marijuana as another tool to function as a mother, grandmother and community member."
Twenty states, including all of those surrounding New York except Pennsylvania, have passed medical marijuana laws to ease the suffering of their sickest citizens.
"As someone living with multiple sclerosis, I can't understand why the New York state senate continues to make our sickest citizens suffer needlessly," said Donna Romano of Syracuse, a Vietnam-era veteran, mother, and grandmother. "If eighty-eight percent of New York voters support this, and it can help those of us struggling every day with serious illnesses, why does the senate continue to make criminals out of the sick?"
The Compassionate Care Act, which would create one of the country's most tightly regulated medical marijuana programs, has strong bi-partisan support. In recent weeks, four Republican senators have come out publicly in support of the legislation, and Senator George Maziarz (R - Newfane) has called for an up and down vote in the senate.
"The New York State legislature has been considering medical marijuana legislation every year since 1997," said gabriel sayegh, state director for the Drug Policy Alliance. "The scientific evidence for the medical use of cannabis is clear and compelling, and the human need for this legislation is painfully clear. There's very strong bipartisan support, and nine out of ten New Yorkers supports it. Yet patients and families are left to suffer because the Senate won't act. No more delays, no more ridiculous excuses. It's time to pass the Compassionate Care Act so patients can get the relief they deserve."