9-Year-Old Girl Who Was the Focus of Medical Marijuana Debate Dies

| by Lisa Fogarty

The death of a 9-year-old girl in New York has caused fury among drug advocates in the state who say emergency access to medical marijuana is a patient’s right.

Anna Conte died last week from complications from a rare condition she had called Dravet Syndrome. She suffered from as many as hundreds of seizures each day, but was not allowed to treat her disorder with cannabis – despite how children with similar conditions in other states have found relief using the drug, reports Huffington Post. The cannabidiol found in medical marijuana can reportedly treat seizures without making young patients “high.” It can be ingested in pill or liquid form rather than smoked.

Drug advocates in New York say a medical marijuana law is needed now, and that a medical marijuana bill that was passed last month should be implemented immediately and not in a year and a half. Since it was passed, two children who experienced the same types of severe seizures as Conte have died.

“Several more children are likely to die waiting for New York to implement its medical marijuana program,” Judy Netherland, a spokesperson for the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement. “While not all of these deaths can be prevented by medical marijuana, we have a moral obligation to make this medicine available as soon as possible.”

Conte’s family is largely responsible for getting New York lawmakers to pass this bill after they resisted for several years.

“Her courage, and the courage of her family, directly led to my sponsorship of legalized medical marijuana in New York,” said State Sen. Mark Grisanti (R-Buffalo). “She was a courageous girl, who suffered as no child ever should.”

In recent years, several families with children who suffer from seizures have fled to states like Colorado, where medical marijuana is legal. Many states, including Georgia and Florida, are reportedly exploring ways to allow medical marijuana to be used to treat children with these disorders.

Conte’s family was planning a move to Colorado before New York passed its medical marijuana bill. Anna’s mother, Wendy, says she knew the bill would never pass in enough time to help her daughter, but that other children deserve a chance to be saved, reports Buffalo News.

“My fear is that, in 18 months, some of the children will not be around to reap the benefits of this legislation,” Conte said. “They can figure out a way to get this done. If they truly want to help these children, they’ll find a way.”

Sources: Huffington Post, Buffalo News

Photo Credit: Brett Levin/Flickr,