Parents, lawmakers push for marijuana oil legalization to treat seizures

Oil from the cannabis plant has been called a miracle drug for children suffering from epilepsy.

It's legal in 23 states, but not in Texas; something a handful of state lawmakers are trying to change this legislative session.

Elissa Howard, 4, goes in the car from Rowlett to Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth with her parents every few months to see how her brain is responding to the medicine she's takes to control her seizures.

Her parents and doctor say nothing can cure them, but they think that cannabidiol, or CBD oil, may be their best shot at giving her a normal life.

Elissa spends her mornings at school in Rowlett and her afternoons riding her three-wheeler, but her nights are often interrupted by seizures.

She's usually unconscious during her seizures, but they've caused developmental delays. They come on unexpectedly and can happen several times a day or week.

"She only has an 85 percent chance of surviving into adulthood," said Elissa's mom, Lynne.

A genetic mutation causes Dravet's Syndrome, which is a lifelong illness. She currently takes three medications, but her mother says they're not working.

Howard found testimonies from other parents in California and Colorado about how CBD oil minimized their children's seizures.

"If we could try CBD and if we were lucky enough to gain seizure control and perhaps get her off some of the other drugs she has to take, she has such a better chance," said Lynne.

CBD is a non-psychoactive compound found only in the hemp (or cannabis) plant that is often extracted and given in an oil form. It's mixed with coconut or olive oil, then placed under the tongue or in the cheek. It is not smoked.

It is still experimental and has not been heavily researched, but Fort Worth Republican State Rep. Stephanie Klick is co-sponsoring a bill to make tight regulations for cultivating, producing and dispensing lower-strength CBD treatments to seizure patients like Elissa.

She calls it a reasonable approach with a no potential for abuse, as does the Howards' doctor.

"I didn't think we were to a point where they needed to pack up and move to another state for this, that instead, it's better to push our government to change our law so that CBD could be investigated," said Dr. M Scott Perry, pediatric neurologist with Cook Children's Medical Center.

In what has been studied, CBD has no psychoactive effects like marijuana.

The bill's sponsors are waiting to see if it will be heard by a committee this session. It still has a few hurdles, but if it passes, the earliest that CBD oil would be available to neurological patients would be 2017.

"If we lived someplace else she could get access, but because she's a Texan, she' can't have that?" said Lynne.

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