Wait Continues for Patients Counting On Medical Marijuana

AMHERST, N.Y. -- It's been two weeks since the long-awaited medical marijuana program launched in New York state, but the wait still isn't over for many patients who have yet to receive their first dose. 

Lisa Valle's daughter, Maya, is one of 10 patients certified by the DENT Neurologic Institute so far to receive medical marijuana.  

"Maya has a cognitive and neurological condition that causes her to have neuropathy and, neurological disturbances on a daily basis," said Valle. "I'm hoping that it will alleviate her neuropathy and we'll be able to take her off of some of her medications." 

Some of the medicine Maya currently takes can cause severe long-term damage, so Valle was determined to get her registered online with Department of Health for the medical marijuana program, no matter how long it took. 

"It was just like this series of weird obstacles that I had to overcome, but I finally got her registered Tuesday at about 4:30. I started the process at about 10, and now I'm just waiting for her approval." 

Valle says that according to the DOH, Maya's registry card will be delivered within two weeks. 

"I'm so grateful that we are to this point, but it seriously has been a long journey," said Valle.

Dr. Laszlo Mechtler, the medical director of DENT, stresses his patients have to have patience. 

"It's a slow process, it's taken several years to get where we are today, so my expectations were not extremely high," said Mechtler. "There's some growing pains, it's going to take several months if not a year for this to develop into a program that's streamline, but for now, I think the state has done a good job." 

One of the growing pains Mechtler referred to is, quite literally, growing, as the plants necessary for the treatment take time to develop, and must come from New York. 

"The initial dispensaries, some of them only have one drug and some of them only have three, four drugs which is a combination of THC or CBD, but even then, they only have a limited amount, probably not enough for more than two or three patients. It's going to take another four weeks for them to get more harvest, more product." 

Mechtler says that so far, DENT has received 60 to 100 calls a day about medical marijuana, and going forward, the state will have to increase access. 

"We'll need more dispensaries, just not enough, especially in Western New York. If you live in Jamestown, Olean, you'll be driving easily three hours to go to a dispensary. That's unacceptable."

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