As the prospect of increased medical use grows, WNY law enforcement faces dilemma on recreational use. And while doctors debate whether there are enough scientific studies to back up the claims, parents who have used a marijuana derivative on their children say it has helped with chronic & severe epilepsy.
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Buffalo, NY (WBEN) - The increasing popularity of marijuana, added with the dangers of other drugs on the street makes it difficult at times for law enforcement. Has use become so widespread that law enforcement agencies are loosening their stance on the drug?
|State Senate Shifts on Medical Marijuana
(WBEN) In the past, most of the opposition to the use of medical marijuana in New York State has been in the State Senate, mostly among Republicans.
But Sen. George Maziarz tells WBEN that the stance could be changing-- so much so that the Senate may vote to approve a medical marijuana plan after the state budget talks are finished.
"We've seen sentiment shifting right here in Western New York." says Maziarz, adding that Senate leaders Dean Skelos and Jeff Klein are also on board.
The current medical marijuana plan being discussed would allow the use of pills or oils and extracts, on a limited basis, when prescribed by a doctor. It would be much more broad based than a Gov. Pataki era effort recently resurrected by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The Cuomo plan would procure marijuana from drug seizures and federal sources, and allow it to be dispensed at ten hospitals through New York State. The Senate and Assembly plan would allow more widespread distribution of marijuana and marijuana-based drugs.
And it would not, Maziarz stresses, allow for recreational smoking.
"Myself and my colleagues from Western New York, particularly Sen. (Mark) Grisanti, Senator (Patrick) Gallivan Senator (Michael) Ranzehofer, we still vehemently oppose use of recreational marijuana" he said during an appearance on Hardline, the WBEN Politics Program (Sunday 10am-12noon)
Eroding opposition to medical marijuana use comes after several parents- mostly of children with a specialized form of epilepsy have come forward to say that a pot derivative used extensively in Colorado could help their children tame violent, frequent seizures.
Maziarz says skepticism begins to erode, the more these parents speak of the need for compassion.
"Would I like to see more evidence from say, the Food and Drug administration? Yes I would. But these parents can't wait," Maziarz says.
"I have to say the DEA's position on that is marijuana's still an illegal substance in the United States," said DEA Resident Agent in Charge Michele Spahn. "Whether or not medicinal marijuana is legal in particular states doesn't change our stance."
"Nothing's impossible," said Spahn when asked how hard it is to keep an eye on all of the marijuana trafficking that goes on just in one city.
"What we tend to focus on is what the threat is at the time where it would reduce crime, or we're seeing deaths due to the ingestion of these drugs. Our resources go to now more of the prescription drug abuse," Spahn says.
Does that mean the DEA is now turning a blind eye toward marijuana?
"We're not taking our focus away from the marijuana investigations in particular," Spahn said. "We do have to meet a federal threshold for those (marijuana) investigations, but right now the focus is on those cases involving prescription pills." Spahn would not comment further as to what those thresholds were.
Recent polls have shown that a majority of Americans favor the legalization of marijuana use. Meanwhile, plans for the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes have been introduced by Governor Andrew Cuomo, as well as discussed in a public hearing held at City Hall in Buffalo.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Legislation to legalize a controversial treatment for children with severe epilepsy advanced Thursday in Utah, Georgia and South Carolina.
The treatment uses oil derived from marijuana. For not, it is only available in Colorado.Aaron Klepinger considers this a miracle cure: the daily dose of liquid marijuana extract, known as Charlotte's Web, given to his 8-year-old son, Hunter.
The Klepingers believe it controls seizes so severe they caused brain damage. Traditional epilepsy drugs were ineffective for Hunter. The Klepingers say that the extract has reduced the frequency of seizures from as many as 100 a day to as few as two a week.
"When he was on pharmaceuticals, he was screaming all the time or sleeping all the time or having more seizures. He's more alert and more happy than he used to be," said Dawn Klepinger, Hunter's mother.
The Klepingers moved to Colorado, where marijuana is allowed for both recreational and medical use, from Georgia, where any use of marijuana is illegal.
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A Conversation in Three Parts
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Conte's daughter suffers from severe seizures and she has established Colorado residency to try and make marijuana available for her daughter
"I feel horrible that a child's zip code is what determines their ability to get medicine that could potentially save their lives," Aaron Klepinger said.
Asked whether he believes the liquid marijuana extract can save Hunter's life, the father replied: "Absolutely. I think it can."
Legislators in 12 states are considering proposals to allow a version of Charlotte's Web to produced or sold legally.
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The extract has a very low dose of THC, the chemical in marijuana that gives people a high. Parents believe other chemicals in the extract reduce the seizures. But there is no scientific study to prove the effectiveness and safety of Charlotte's Web to treat epilepsy.
"I think we have real reason to be concerned," said Dr. Amy Brooks-Kayal, first vice president of the American Epilepsy Society. She worries that parents are sailing into uncharted waters.
"We do know from basic science studies that marijuana derivatives can completely stop the cellular mechanism for learning and memory. And right now I don't know the benefits, the likelihood that it is going to help. And I know nothing about the risks," she said.
There are about 200 patients in Colorado using the extract, half of whom moved from out of state to use it legally.