Regina O'Donnell, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, with her husband...

Regina O'Donnell, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, with her husband Craig Adams. (Dec. 18, 2013) Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

Parents of dozens of critically ill children testified before the Assembly Committee on Health on Wednesday in Mineola in support of a bill to legalize medical marijuana, arguing it would provide needed relief from the pain of seizures, multiple sclerosis and cancer.

The Compassionate Care Act would allow New Yorkers with debilitating medical conditions to obtain 2.5 ounces of marijuana at a time. The program would be monitored by the state Health Department and taxed by the state, with 50 percent of revenue going to the county where the drug is dispensed. Twenty states and the District of Columbia have laws legalizing medical marijuana.

Missy Miller of Atlantic Beach said her 14-year-old son Oliver suffers hundreds of seizures daily because of a brain stem injury caused by a stroke he suffered in utero. She said a strain of marijuana, delivered through an oil that eliminates the psychoactive properties that allow users to get high, could alleviate Oliver's constant pain.

Unless New York changes its laws, Miller plans to move to California where medical marijuana is legal. "There is an option here and you can save my son's life," she told the panel.

Craig Adams, a New York State Court officer from East Meadow, said he was adamantly opposed to marijuana his entire life but his opinion changed after his wife, Regina O'Donnell, spent years suffering from terrible spasms from multiple sclerosis. Adams said she tried marijuana and the spasms quickly dissipated.

"I can firmly state that marijuana saved her life," Adams said.

But Jeff Reynolds, executive director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, said the bill proposed by Assembly Democrats could have "unintended community consequences," including increased addiction among young people.

The bill "does not get us any closer to safe and effective solutions for those with significant medical conditions and at the same time sends an inaccurate message that affects public health," Reynolds said.

The campaign to legalize medical marijuana picked up steam in the State Legislature last year, and in June the Assembly passed the bill, sponsored by Health Committee chairman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan), with a bipartisan vote of 95-38.

But the measure has been opposed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who contends the law would open the door to more illegal use and distribution, and by the politically split State Senate, which has refused to call a vote on the bill. "You don't want to increase the distribution of drugs by creating another system," Cuomo said in April.

Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

With Yancey Roy

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