NY Family Plans Ariz. Move To Treat Infant with Medical Marijuana

Joey Wertman endures hundreds of spasms per day.

ByABC News
February 21, 2014, 12:27 PM

Feb. 21, 2014 — -- A New York family is getting ready to move to Arizona so that their 9-month-old son can be treated with medical marijuana.

According to ABC News affiliate WKBW-TV in Buffalo, N.Y., Joey Wertman has a form of infant epilepsy which can result in hundreds of spasms a day.

Joey’s parents, Brittany and Joe Wertman, have tried multiple medications for the infant to slow or stop his seizures but nothing has worked. According to WKBW-TV, as a last resort the family, currently living near Buffalo, is planning to move to Arizona where medical marijuana for children has been legalized.

In New York, medical marijuana remains illegal, although in January New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced an initiative to allow a limited number of hospitals to dispense marijuana for specific conditions. It’s unclear when the drugs would become available and who would be eligible to receive them.

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Joe Wertman told WKBW-TV the family is planning to move next month.

“I don’t know what someone’s objection would be, looking at my son have a seizure and say I don’t want to give him medicine to help him,” Joe Wertman told WKBW-TV.

In Arizona, patients under 18 can receive medical marijuana under certain qualifications. A 5-year-old child made headlines last year when his parents planned to treat him with cannabidiol oil or CBD, a chemical found in marijuana, to help treat his intense seizures.

Medical marijuana given often has higher doses of CBD, which has medical properties and a low or no amount of THC, which cause users to feel “high.” However, some researchers say that the evidence on the effectiveness of CBD on seizures is still more anecdotal than research driven.

Dr. Steven Wolf, director of Pediatric Epilepsy at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, told ABC News last year that parents should be wary of using CBD to treat epilepsy pending further studies. Although he has heard anecdotally that parents said the drug helped their children, Wolf said doctors didn’t yet know if children would build up a quick tolerance to CBD or if it would ultimately prove ineffective.

“I can say if this was my kid and if there was a possibility it would work, I would certainly want to know,” said Wolf. “This is interesting, but this needs investigation.”

For the Wertman family, going to Arizona is a last resort and one they hope will result in Joey having fewer spasms.

“This is it, this is now,” the baby's mother Brittany Wertman told WKBW-TV. “He needs to be able to have a normal life, and we need to do this.”

According to WKBW-TV, New York Congressman Chris Collins told the family he would send a letter to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency to request a waver that would allow the Wertman family to travel back and forth between Arizona and New York so that they could work with physicians in both states.

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