New York State will work with a pharmaceutical company to explore a new marijuana-based medical treatment for children.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the state will collaborate with GW Pharmaceuticals to develop and launch clinical trials of cannabidiol — an extract from marijuana plants thought to help children suffering from medication-resistant epilepsy.
Sixty young patients have already been authorized to be treated with the drug at NYU's Langone Medical Center.
However, some critics are concerned that Cuomo's commitment to the trials may water down recent efforts for broader medical marijuana reform by state lawmakers.
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"More research on medical marijuana is always welcome," wrote Dr. Howard Grossman. "But the governor’s research program simply will not help the thousands of New Yorkers living with serious illnesses and debilitating conditions who need medical marijuana to relieve their suffering."
A co-chair of the group New York Physicians for Compassionate Care, Grossman operates a private practice in New York City. Grossman pointed to a similar research program in Maryland that he called "an abysmal failure.
"New York should not go down that failed path," he added. "It should pass the Compassionate Care Act."
The act, which passed the state Assembly last week, is currently under consideration by the Senate.
Cuomo framed the decision as a means to help children forced to live with a so-far untreatable ailment.
"Young New Yorkers battling these diseases deserve treatments that work for them," the governor said in a statement, "and by investigating the merits of cannabidiol we are pushing the boundaries of modern medicine and working to fundamentally improve the quality of life for those children."
Since taking office, Cuomo has mostly avoided a debate about medical marijuana. In March, he announced his administration would allow 20 hospitals to prescribe legalized pot for patients approved by the state Health Department.
Follow Chester Jesus Soria on Twitter@chestersoria