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City of Buffalo urged to implement its own medical marijuana program

While New York State works toward implementing a medical marijuana program, Buffalo-area residents – some disappointed with the state’s effort – want Buffalo to create its own medical marijuana program.

Two parents whose children suffer from seizures, as well as a woman who said she’s in constant pain, spoke before a Common Council committee Tuesday, asking the city to support what they call the Buffalo Medical Cannabis Act. Such an act would be somewhat similar to the state’s medical marijuana program, but supporters say, they would like the city’s version to expand the diseases that would be covered, and also allow for medical marijuana to be grown in Western New York.

“The state didn’t get this right,” said Daniel Ryszka, a pharmacist whose two children – a daughter, Taylor, 14, and son, Caden, 8 – both suffer from an undiagnosed seizure condition. “It’s every day, every couple of minutes,” Ryszka said. Sometimes the seizures are quick, when his child’s eyes roll back, but quickly return to their regular position. Other times, the seizure can be violent thrashing that lasts 20 minutes, or even more than an hour.

Lisa Valle told the Council about her 7-year-old daughter, Maya, who has been on anti-seizure medication most of her life. While some question what long-term use of cannabis does to a child, Valle said, they don’t ask about the side effects and long-term effects of the medications children like her daughter are currently on. “We are sedating our kids,” she said. “Anti-epileptic drugs are sedatives. They lower the brain function. I know what seven years of sedatives have done for my child.”

Valle and Ryszka worry that the state’s medical marijuana program won’t be in place when it’s scheduled to start in January. Also, the five growers approved in New York are all downstate. And the only local distributors, Valle and Ryszka said, are in Amherst. The parents said they worry it will be difficult to get an adequate supply of marijuana to local distributors, and also that it may be hard for all Western New Yorkers to obtain the drugs from the Amherst-based distributors.

Ryszka lives in Amherst and Valle lives in Grand Island. The parents said they are bringing their concerns to Buffalo because they are aware a group already exists asking for marijuana law reform in Buffalo.

Also addressing the Council was Wendy Hart, who said medical marijuana is preferable to the 150 other medications doctors have suggested to help her cope with her pain.

Council members said the city doesn’t have the authority to usurp state laws, but did ask the city Law Department to research what the city can do. Council members also said they would push for the state to move more quickly, and perhaps have more dispensers in the Buffalo area.

“I do hope this Council is able in some way to support what New York State has, but to ensure it is implemented quickly and compassionately,” said Council President Darius G. Pridgen.

“We will research what we are able to do,” added South Council Member Christopher P. Scanlon.