The State Assembly is introducing and passing their one-house budget proposal, which, for the first time ever, includes New York's comprehensive medical marijuana proposal - the Compassionate Care Act (A.6357-A -Gottfried) / S.4406-A -Savino). As the Assembly gathers to pass the measure, dozens of patients, families, caregivers and healthcare providers are descending on Albany to press the State Senate to pass the Compassionate Care Act. The patients are living with cancer, multiple sclerosis, severe seizure disorders, and other serious, debilitating medical conditions, and the families include parents of children who suffer from severe forms of epilepsy, such as Dravet syndrome. They will participate in a public hearing on medical marijuana, then meet with legislators throughout the day and, finally, attend a free public event about medical marijuana tonight in Latham at the HopeClub.
"I'm traveling to Albany from Long Island, with my son Oliver, because he suffers from severe seizures that could potentially be alleviated by medical marijuana," said Missy Miller of Atlantic Beach. "I thought our leaders in Albany were elected to represent the people. With 88 percent of New York voters supporting medical marijuana, I'm finding it hard to understand why the Senate won't vote on the bill that could save my son's life. Every seizure he suffers causes more damage; he is slipping away day by day. We never know which seizure could be the one that is too much for him. If the senate does not bring the Compassionate Care Act up for a vote, they are signing my son's death warrant."
By including the comprehensive medical marijuana bill, known as the Compassionate Care Act, in their state budget proposal, the Assembly has jumpstarted negotiations with the Senate and Governor, as the measure will now be part of state budget negotiations.
"I'm thrilled that the Compassionate Care Act is gaining momentum and applaud the Assembly for including it in their budget bill," said Nancy Rivera of Troy. "As a four time cancer survivor, who has been working to pass the bill for more than a year, I urge the Senate to finally step up and offer suffering New Yorkers some relief."
Momentum continues to build for a comprehensive medical marijuana bill. In the last few weeks, four Republican State Senators have added their voices to the chorus of support for the Compassionate Care Act: Senator George Maziarz (R - Newfane), Senator Mark Grisanti (R, IP - Buffalo), Senator Joe Robach (R, C, IP - Rochester) and Senator Tim O'Mara (R, C - Big Flats, Elmira). Last week, Senate Co-Majority Leader Dean Skelos for the first time acknowledged what the medical community and patients have long known: that medical cannabis provides relief for some people. And last night, CNN aired a new, extensive report on medical cannabis by Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
"I have been living with multiple sclerosis for 19 years," said Mark McCarty of Syracuse. "It's time the Senate stopped making criminals out of sick people who simply looking for some relief from their pain and suffering. The Compassionate Care Act could help me and thousands of others who are suffering needlessly. The Senate needs to pass this bill now."
The Compassionate Care Act has passed the Assembly four times, and nearly 90 percent of New York voters support the bill according to a recent Quinnipiac poll. While there are more than enough votes to pass the bill, Senate leadership has refused to bring the bill up for a vote. Senator Savino (D-North Shore/Brooklyn), the sponsor of the Compassionate Care Act in Senate, is hosting a legislative roundtable this morning to educate lawmakers about the details of the proposal, which would create the nation's most tightly regulated medical marijuana program in the country.
Dozens of experts, patients, and caregivers are testifying at the roundtable, pleading for the immediate passage of the bill.
"The Compassionate Care Act has strong bipartisan support," said Kate Hintz of North Salem, whose daughter Morgan suffers from a rare and devastating seizure disorder. "The senate has delayed long enough. On behalf of Morgan and all the other seriously ill New Yorkers who need this medication, I urge the Senate to pass this bill immediately."
"I'm speaking at the public hearing today on behalf of veterans," said Amy Rising, an Air Force and Global War on Terror veteran from Ithaca. "Thousands of soldiers have served this country in these wars and now suffer from post traumatic stress, traumatic brain injuries, and phantom pains due to lost limbs. They deserve to have access to medical cannabis, which we know to alleviate many of these conditions without the harmful side effects that come with prescriptions, without fearing arrest or loss of their children, and/or the loss of their benefits."
The public hearing and patient lobby day are part of the March for Compassion -- actions and events across the state to educate New Yorkers about medical cannabis and build support for the bill. As part of the month-long series of events, public forums are being held across the state. A forum in Buffalo on Monday saw a standing-room-only crowd. The public forums continue tonight in Latham, tomorrow in Mineola, and next week in Brooklyn and Syracuse.
The events are being organized by Compassionate Care NY - a coalition of over 1,000 patients and caregivers, 650 physicians, nearly 70 endorsing organizations, and over 10,000 supporters. The Coalition is releasing a series of videos about patients, families, and the effort to pass the Compassionate Care Act.
"The Senate has run out of excuses for holding up this bill," said gabriel sayegh, director of the Drug Policy Alliance's New York Office. "Patients need relief, the science is clear according to medical experts like Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Physicians for Compassionate Care NY, Senators from both sides of the aisle are ready to vote "yes," and a super majority of New York voters support it. Good grief, what else do the Senate Co-Leaders need? It's time to stop the needless suffering. It's time to pass the Compassionate Care Act."