WNY family to move to Phoenix for medical marijuana

HAMBURG, N.Y. (WIVB) – Nine-month-old Joey Wertman of Hamburg is believed to be the youngest child in the country to have a medical marijuana license.

He suffers from a rare form of epilepsy called Infantile Spasms and could have as many as a hundred seizures a day, according to Joey’s parents, Joe and Brittany Wertmen.

Joe said, “It’s utter chaos. Chaos is happening. It’s like a hurricane in the brain.”

The Wertmens say they have tried 17 different medications that have failed to control the seizures, and that Joey’s condition can worsen if the seizures are not controlled. Their last hope is to try medical marijuana, which has been known to help some children with similar conditions.

“There are other kids out there with his same diagnosis and they’ve had great reduction in their seizures, sometimes from a hundred a day to one a week,” Joe said.

The entire family, including Joey’s two sisters, is moving to Phoenix, Arizona in March where medical marijuana is legal. Joe, an emergency room nurse at Mercy Hospital, already has a job lined up, but it will be a difficult move for the family.

Brittany said, “I’ve lived here my whole life and I’m very close to my family and my sisters and my parents, and it’s just…but we have to do it. This is the most important thing in the world. We have to make him better.”

But the move will separate Joey from his doctors in Buffalo, Rochester and Detroit who are familiar with his condition. The family cannot take medical marijuana into states where it is not legal.

“We’ve already have linked up with some dispensaries and we’re going to be able to give Joey the medical marijuana he needs to help control his seizures,” Joe said. “We can’t leave the state of Arizona to go to his doctors’ appointments, so we don’t know what we’re going to do.”

Late Tuesday afternoon, Senator Charles Schumer personally called the Wertmans. Joe said the senator told him he would reach out to the Attorney General and the DEA to see if there is any way families can travel across state lines with medical marijuana for their loved ones.

Though medical marijuana is currently illegal in New York State, Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced plans to make it available at a limited number of hospitals.

And a recent poll found 88 percent of New Yorkers approve making medical marijuana legal, and 57 percent think it should also be legalized for recreational use.

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