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Mixed reaction to medical marijuana deal
Albany / Rochester, N.Y. - An agreement was reached during the last day of the legislative session and New York is expected to be the 23rd state to legalize medical marijuana.
Its a milestone advocates fought for years to reach but compromise at the Capitol disappointed some. The bill was passed with a number of restrictions, including limits to what patients will be able to get a prescribed the drug.
I think that there will be many patients that will disappointed by that bill that will actually pass, Allison Henderstone anxiously awaited a vote in Albany as she watched legislatures revise the bill. Henderstone said, Its a step forward but not as a big a step forward as everyone had hoped.
The list of serious illnesses that qualify was narrowed down to ten, those include: cancer, epilepsy, HIV and AIDS, multiple sclerosis, ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, neuropathies, certain spinal cord injuries, and inflammatory bowel disease.
Henderstones daughter Molly has a rare form of epilepsy; she suffers about 100 seizures a day. At one point Henderstone said the family was planning to move to a state where medical marijuana is legal but this bill was the last bit of hope they had to hold onto.
Its been proven to be very effective for her type of seizure disorder so we are happy, Henderstone said this is great for her family but she cant help but think about all the others that were left out of the bill. It is a little bittersweet because we know there are thousands of other patients that are suffering that may not have access to this as a treatment option.
People like Mark Dipasquale, a Marine who served in Iraq, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorderits one of the ten conditions weeded out of the bill.
Its more than offensive to say the post-traumatic stress is not serious when 22 veterans a day are committing suicide and hundreds and thousands are wanting to kill themselves but dont. Dipasquale said hes been prescribed dozens of medications but the only thing thats worked for him is marijuana. Dipasquale said hes been using it illegally for the last three years and its completely changed his life.
With a disease like myself Im willing to risk everything for it because I cant live without it, Dipasquale said its not an addiction; its a medicine that he depends on. Without cannabis I wouldnt either want to be alive or I wouldnt be alive.
Now, Dipasquale said he will have to continue to break the law to treat his debilitating disorder.
That doesnt sit well with meIm trying not to focus on that and Im trying to focus on the people that it will help but that was not how I envisioned this happening, Sue Kidera said its tough to think about the people that dont qualify.
Kidera said, Particularly for the children the people who are suffering you know, that makes me as sad as can beI shed a few tears today. Sad for those who wont get help, there was some relief that she will soon have marijuana as a treatment option.
Diagnosed with stage four colon cancer in 2005, Kidera will have to undergo radiation and chemotherapy for the rest of her lifeand the side effects are crippling. I really need something that can help me live the kind of quality of life that I want to live so Im really pleased that were going to have a program in New York, Kidera said.
The bill bans smoking marijuana and it cannot be sold in plant form, but it can be administered through a vaporizer or oil. Doctors will have to be trained and certified by the Department of Health to prescribe the drugwhich wont be available until at least 18 months after the bill goes into effect.
Thats definitely a long time to wait while watching your child suffer, Hendershot said, its kind of a waiting game, how long will it take to implement this once it becomes a law.
The Commissioner of Health can add or subtract conditions to the list of qualifying conditions over time and the law is set to expire after seven years but at any point, the Governor has the authority to pull the plug on the program if he thinks it is harmful to public safety or health.