Crowley, Members of New York Congressional Delegation Urge Justice Department to Allow Emergency Access to Medical Marijuana Treatments in New York

October 30, 2014
Press Release

Justice Department Approval Would Bring Emergency Relief to Children Suffering From Epilepsy and Seizure Disorders Before New York’s

Medical Marijuana Law Takes Effect

(Queens, NY) – Today, Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx), Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, announced that he, along with 17 bipartisan members of New York’s congressional delegation, sent a letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) urging them to grant New York State the ability to import a specific medical marijuana treatment, an extracted oil known as cannabidiol, from other states in order to bring emergency relief to children suffering from epilepsy and seizure disorders that do not respond to other treatments. The letter is a result of meetings Crowley held with families from his district who have children suffering from diseases where cannabidiol would be an effective treatment option, as well as health advocates.

“As a father of three kids, I can’t imagine the pain so many families are going through, and I knew I had to take action to help them seek relief. A demonstrated health care treatment is available, and it is only right for children who are suffering to have access to it,” said Rep. Crowley. “I urge the Justice Department to move as quickly as possible on this commonsense solution and allow New York to help these children and families.”  

“People in New York are unnecessarily suffering and dying because of our broken marijuana policies,” said Gabriel Sayegh, Managing Director for Policy & Campaigns for the Drug Policy Alliance. “We are pleased that so many members of the New York Congressional delegation from both parties have recognized this and called on the Department of Justice to help critically ill children by clarifying the Cole memo so that New York, a medical marijuana state, can acquire needed medicine from another medical marijuana state. As a state and as a nation, we cannot allow more people to die needlessly because of antiquated marijuana laws. We urge the Department of Justice and the Cuomo Administration to do everything they can to swiftly get medicine into the hands of those who desperately need it.”

Specifically, the letter urges the DOJ to permit the state government of New York to import medical marijuana in limited amounts to meet the needs of families in genuine need. While New York enacted a law in June allowing access to medical marijuana, it is estimated that it will take up to 18 months to set up the state’s own program. In the interim, New York has sought to obtain treatments like cannabidiol from states that have set up medical marijuana programs, but cannot due to federal interpretations of restrictions on transporting these treatments across state lines. If approved by the DOJ, this request would give those suffering access to needed treatments while New York’s own program gets established.

The urgent need is further highlighted by the fact that since July, at least three New York children have died from complications related to epilepsy that has been demonstrated to be treatable with cannabidiol, a product that has no psychoactive properties and is widely used in other states. 

“Every day makes a difference for children with these severe disorders. Given this urgent public health need, we urge you to allow New York the ability to import finite and strictly controlled amounts of cannabidiol,” wrote the lawmakers in the letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

The full text of the letter to Attorney General Holder is below: