Cuomo to speed up medical-marijuana program for kids with epilepsy

 Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday will direct the state Department of Health to speed up the process for getting medical marijuana to children with epilepsy, according to a Cuomo administration official.

Cuomo’s directive comes two days after his office and the state’s health commissioner met with a dozen advocates for medical marijuana, who pushed the state to implement the program more quickly.

Under a new state law passed in June, the Department of Health has 18 months to get the marijuana program up and running. It allows the drug for therapeutic purposes for patients with serious conditions and illnesses—including epilepsy and AIDS—but only in non-smokeable forms.

It wasn’t immediately clear what steps the health department could take to issue the drug more quickly. Federal law prevents it from being transported across the state law and growing it in state would take at least 90 days, according to experts.

On Saturday, the sponsors of the medical-marijuana bill — Sen. Diane Savino, D-Staten Island, and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan—sent a letter to Cuomo, urging him to push the federal government to allow the state to obtain marijuana from other states to get to terminally ill patients sooner. The letter, which was also signed by Sen. Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo, cited the recent death of a 9-year-old Buffalo-area girl suffering from Dravet Syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy that begins in infancy.

In Buffalo on Monday, Cuomo said he was looking at the issue, but said it’s imperative the state takes the time to make sure it’s medical-marijuana program launches properly.

“We want to do it as quickly as possible, but we need to do it right,” Cuomo said. “We have an 18-month timeframe in the legislation that was passed. If it can be accelerated safely, then we will do that.”

Twitter: @JonCampbellGAN

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