On June 1, the final day of his first legislative session, Gov. Greg Abbott is set to sign a bill legalizing cannabis oil as a treatment for epilepsy.
The legislation, Senate Bill 339, will not legalize recreational or medical marijuana usage. The cannabis oil will only be offered to those suffering from epilepsy that have a prescription.
The bill, which was sponsored by Rep. Sen. Kevin Eltife and Rep. Stephanie Klick, originally was passed through the legislative chambers last month. This came after heartfelt testimonies from parents with children suffering from epilepsy were heard.
With a reported 150,000 people in the state of Texas dealing with intractable epilepsy, the signing of this bill could benefit a very large amount of citizens.
The cannabis oil that will be offered to patients is low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the cannabinoid that creates the euphoric feeling of being high. The oil will be high cannabidiol (CBD), which has received national media attention for its help in assisting children suffering from seizures. Texas will be joining fourteen other states that have approved some form of low-dose CBD oil laws.
According to the bill, the Texas Department of Public Safety will be in charge of creating rules for obtaining and choosing nonprofits that are approved to distribute the oil.
A public signing of the bill by Gov. Abbott will be held the afternoon of Monday, June 1.
Photo Credit: The Texas Tribune
Two new pieces of limited medical marijuana legislation, known as the Compassionate Use Act, were just introduced in Texas for the 2015 session. One bill is sponsored by Senator Kevin Eltife of Tyler, and the other was introduced by Representative Stephanie Klick of Fort Worth.
The legislation, packaged between two bills — one in the House (HB 892) and one in the Senate (SB 339) — establishes a system for regulating the use, possession, production and distribution of cannabidiol oil for intractable epilepsy patients in Texas. Only doctors specializing in the treatment of epilepsy and neurologists will be permitted to recommend cannabidiol oil to patients.
Cannabidiol is one of the many medically beneficial cannabinoids occurring naturally in the marijuana plant. For this purpose, only the cannabidiol is extracted from the cannabis to make the oil used for these targeted cannabinoid treatments. The other cannabinoids, like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which is known to produce psychoactive effects, are separated and discarded.
In recent years, several state legislatures have passed similar cannabidiol oil bills that are less effective, and these Texas lawmakers have learned from the mistakes that have landed lawmakers in states like Kentucky and Iowa in the hot seat of scrutiny.
Most of the other states with such legislation have legalized the possession and use of the cannabinoid oil without establishing a way for patients to access it through state-licensed producers or distributors.
These bills, collectively, establish a process for in-state production and distribution of the oil, so patients will not be forced to break the law by importing the oil from other states in which it is already legal, like Colorado.
These bills seem to have been inspired by the youngest medical marijuana advocate in Texas, Alexis Bortell (photo above). Alexis suffers from intractable epilepsy, and experienced no relief from the use of the pharmaceuticals that doctors prescribed. The only treatment that significantly reduced her seizures and improved her symptoms was the use of targeted cannabinoid therapy in the form of cannabidiol oil, for which she had to travel with her father to Colorado.
After seeing what relief the cannabidiol oil brought to her symptoms, Alexis began speaking at medical marijuana rallies in Texas to spread the word of her success in hopes of inspiring a sensible medical marijuana policy in the Lone Star State. Alexis was quoted as saying,
“I don’t wanna leave Texas. I’m a Texas girl!”
Unfortunately, after being back in Texas without access to the cannabis concentrate oil treatments, Alexis’s health took a turn for the worse in early February, and the family announced plans to move to Colorado for reliable and safe access to medicine.
Now, just weeks after that announcement, these bills to legalize the in-state possession, use, production and distribution of the cannabinoid therapy has been introduced for the 2015 legislative session. It may not be in time for Alexis to remain in the state, but it is definitely a step in the right direction for helping the 149,000 Texans suffering from intractable epilepsy.
photo credit: knowyourgrow
Leesburg, Georgia | Chance Henry is a 12-year-old boy living in Leesburg, Georgia, about 200 miles south of Atlanta. He began having seizures soon after he was born, around the six week mark. At years old, Chances mother estimates he has suffered from around 3,000 to 4,000 seizures in his life. Frustrated with expensive and ineffective medicines, Chase and his mother are looking to non-psychoactive CBD oil derived from the cannabis plant for treatment.
However, in the state of Georgia, the medicine that could help to improve Chance’s life remains illegal. Just this week Governor Nathan Deal all but threw away a proposed medical marijuana bill in the state. Rep. Allen Peake will be establishing a new bill that would allow possession of CBD oil in the future; that is if residents had a way to legally grow cannabis and extract the oils.
For now, Chance’s only option for legal treatment is the slew of up to 15 prescription pills he takes per day. His mother Traci is working furiously find a way for Chance to access the CBD oil that he desperately needs. Traci says, “It’s very hard, because I know the side effects to them. I don’t even see sometimes how he functions, but he’s always smiling, he’s a loving child.”
Chance’s mother says that his worst day resulted in 26 seizures within a 24 hour period. “The side effects are dizziness, nausea. We have to have him tested yearly for liver damage, kidney damage. And with the cannabis oil there are no side effects,” Traci says.
She began researching the life-saving cannabis oil around 6 months ago and is still waiting for the medicine. “I just never thought it was attainable. I didn’t know until I really started researching that in 24 states, it’s legal.” Traci isn’t alone in her search for a treatment, as many as 150,000 residents in the state are afflicted by epilepsy.
Traci and Chance have a long road ahead of them to pass this much needed, life-saving legislation. Support is growing in the state for access to the non-psychoactive CBD oil, but legislation is slow to catch up. Meanwhile organizations like Georgia Hope are doing what they can to increase exposure to the issue. Measures to help Chance and other children like him are will within reach, but it’s up to lawmakers use compassion and reason to pass new legislation.
If you’re a Georgia resident and would like to make a difference, you can email Governor Nathan Deal here.
The “Medical Cannabidiol Act,” signed by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad in May of last year, took effect on July 1, 2014. This limited medical marijuana legislation protects patients suffering from only one form of epilepsy and their caregivers from facing prosecution for possessing the form of medical marijuana known as cannabidiol (CBD) oil.
As of January 2015, the Iowa Department of Public Health has not issued a single medical marijuana identification card. This means that zero patients have been helped from the enactment of this restrictive law.
Under the Medical Cannabidiol Act, only patients suffering from intractable epilepsy are permitted to use only the non-psychoactive cannabinoid known as CBD, in the form of oil. This medicine must contain less than 3 percent of the psychoactive cannabinoid THC. Not only does this legislation seriously restrict who can use cannabis therapy, it also does not allow for the CBD oil to be produced or manufactured in the state. This means that even if a patient is able to qualify for the Iowa medical marijuana program, he or she would be forced to obtain their medicine on the black market.
One of the parents of a boy with intractable epilepsy, who advocated for this law, Maria La France explained her fear of using CBD oil to the quad city times,
“It’s just too dangerous. It’s too scary to break the law, too difficult to lose sleep at night. I frankly spend enough time worrying if my child is going to live another week. I have experimented … I don’t want to say anything that’ll get me arrested or in jail. I don’t want a lynch mob. Who would take care of him if I got arrested.”
La France did obtain a medical marijuana card for her son in Colorado last year, but she let it expire out of fear of prosecution. Even if she kept the Colorado medical marijuana card up to date, she would be committing a crime punishable by years in jail every time she carried the medicine across state lines.
Essentially, the Medical Cannabidiol Act of Iowa is a completely pointless piece of legislation that benefits no one. Senator Joe Bolkom of Iowa City realized this and plans to introduce a bill to develop the medical marijuana program a bit further when the Iowa legislature reconvenes. Bolkom reported that he wants to allow patients suffering from more medical conditions to be eligible, and pointed out, “The medicine has to be produced within the state.”
For the sake of those suffering from many different debilitating medical conditions in the state of Iowa, hopefully the state legislature will take a good look at the weakness of the Medical Cannabidiol Act, and make the necessary amendments for it to be an effective law.