Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office is directing the state Department of Health to find ways to speed up the implementation of the state’s medical marijuana program for children who have epilepsy, an administration official on Wednesday morning confirmed.

Updated: In a letter released this morning, Cuomo called on Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker to explore ways to speed up the process for implementing the program for epileptic children.

“Striking the right balance to ensure public safety and public health are protected is crucial,” Cuomo wrote in the letter. “That said, I ask that you review the eighteen month implementation timeline to determine if there is any way to accelerate the process for this specific dire population. I know you had an opportunity to meet with advocates this week on this very issue — I hope that the meeting was constructive and can be helpful to you as you move forward in this process.”

In the letter, Cuomo cited both the deaths of 9-year-old Anna Conte and 3-year-old Olivia Marie Newton in western New York as “tragic reminders of the urgent help children with epilepsy desperately need”

In the days since, Cuomo’s staff reportedly met with the state health commissioner and advocates for medical marijuana, who requested the program be implemented on a faster timetable.

The medical marijuana law was approved in June following an intense period of negotiations between the governor and the lawmakers who backed the legislation.

In the end, the program that was approved was one that gave broad authority over a medical marijuana program that would be implemented over the next 18 months.

At the time of the program’s passage, advocates for medical marijuana said the timetable for the implementation of the program was disappointingly slow.

Cuomo in Buffalo this week said he wanted to implement the program quickly but also do it right.

“If it can be accelerated safely, then we will do that,” Cuomo said.

Updated: Sen. Diane Savino, a Staten Island Democrat who was one of the key sponsors of the legisltion, weighs in on the news.

“I applaud the Governor for agreeing to heed our initial call to action to fast track New York’s signature medical marijuana law. There is little doubt that the families are the true heroes in this saga, particularly Wendy Conte, who tragically lost her daughter, Anna Conte, this past Fourth of July. Their direct advocacy and lobbying efforts with the Health Commissioner helped to convince the administration that this is the appropriate course of action. This new timeline is absolutely critical so that children and patients all throughout the state obtain the medical relief they need sooner, safer, and without delay.”

Gam CD Oh Zucker by Nick Reisman