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Little Girl Loses Cancer Fight Amid Medical Marijuana Struggle. 8 yr old Donella Nocera of Niagara Falls, who battled the disease from a bed in Women & Children’s Hospital in Buffalo for more than a year, died Thursday, her family said in a statement.

Nathan Nocera, Donella’s father, had taken to directly calling on Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to speed up the availability of medical marijuana, which under a state law passed earlier this year wouldn’t be available until at least January 2016.

Being able to have access to the drug would have at least relieved some of his daughter’s pain, he said.

“Gov. Cuomo, I know you cannot turn back time to get us the medical marijuana that could have slowed the aggressive growth of the tumor in her brain. I know you cannot give us back the days, turned into weeks, turned into months that we lost Donella to a narcotic-induced sleep. But you have the power to end the needless suffering of so many New York families, and I urge you to use it,” Nathan Nocera said in a written statement released Friday.

In the name of my little girl and at least two other children who have died waiting for medical marijuana, I urge you to take action. When you gather with your loved ones this holiday season, I ask that you keep my family in your heart as we suffer the loss of our dearest Donnie.

In an op-ed in the Albany Times-Union in October, Nocera disclosed that he illegally obtained medical marijuana for his daughter’s use, but that led to an investigation by Child Protective Services.

Nocera said he “saw the pain lessen” when his daughter received the medical marijuana, but doctors are legally obligated to prevent him from providing the drug. The opiate pain killers she received instead “failed to control her pain” and kept her in a comatose state, he wrote.

The governor and state lawmakers reached a deal on medical marijuana in late June. At the time, Cuomo said the law “strikes the right balance” between the needs of some patients and public safety.

At the time Cuomo signed the law in early July, New York was the 23rd state to permit some type of medical marijuana.

But the state’s version is much more restrictive than those in some other states. Not all doctors will be permitted to prescribe marijuana under the law. Also, patients must either consume the drug in an edible format or inhale it as a vapor. Smoking it is prohibited under the law.

At the end of July, the governor asked the state Health Department to expedite availability of medical marijuana for children suffering from epilepsy.

At the end of September, Cuomo asked the U.S. Justice Department for a waiver to allow the state to import limited amounts of marijuana to treat children and young adults with rare seizure disorders. Sens. Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand, both New York Democrats, signed on to support the state’s request.

Nathan Nocera joined Compassionate Care New York as he sought early access to medical marijuana. It’s a statewide group formed as a project of the Drug Policy Alliance, which says it promotes policies “that are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights.”

“It is our sincerest hope that Donella’s passing will spur Gov. Cuomo to take immediate, unequivocal action to provide emergency access to medical marijuana for those patients who cannot wait for the full system to come online next year,” the group said. “Because no family should suffer through needlessly losing their children, and no parent should have to watch their children suffer when relief is so close at hand.”

Buffalo News

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