Roy Exum: ‘We Did Nothing For Kids!’

Thursday, March 27, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Seven-year-old Josh Hardy, a first-grader and four-time cancer survivor, has just been moved out of ICU at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital after he has responded miraculously to an experimental drug that his family went through hell-on-earth to get for him. Hardy was gravely ill until a North Carolina drug company, under intense public pressure, granted a medical trial.

The drug, called Brincidofovir, has not yet received FDA approval and the little guy still has problems but they are no longer critical, according to news reports. Instead, the Fredericksburg boy’s mother posted on Facebook that Josh is making “tremendous strides.”

Fortunately, the state legislature wasn’t involved in Josh’s rescue because thousands of children across the South who suffer from horrible seizures are still the victims of a very political lobby against marijuana – except, of all places, Alabama.

True story! Alabama Governor Robert Bentley said he will sign a bill almost immediately that will make cannibidiol oil (CBD) legal and soon available for children suffering intractable epilepsy through a $1 million grant at UA-Birmingham. The bill, allowing Alabama to join over 20 other states in allowing some type of medicinal marijuana, breezed through the legislature in Montgomery last week.

In Georgia a similar bill was blossoming but later doomed when someone unwisely tacked an autism clause on it, causing an angry Republican state senator Fran Millar to tell a TV station: “Here’s your headline – we did nothing for kids but we passed a gun bill.”

Governor Nathan Deal, also apparently miffed, is considering an Executive Order before the legislature will meet again. “All of us were moved by the families and the children that were involved with the medical marijuana bill and I certainly think that all of us want to try to figure out if there’s something we can do to provide them with the kind of assistance they need.

“I will be talking with all of our state agencies who have any kind of involvement in dealing with that issue,” the governor added, “to see if there is something we can do to make this treatment possible, assuming that the proper foundation of law enforcement security and medical protections are attached.”

So, how about Tennessee? What was called the Koozer-Kuhn Medical Cannabis Act was voted down in a House committee Tuesday, falling 6-2 on party lines. But a bill that would allow a study of CBD is still alive and Rep. Mike Carter (R-Ooltewah) is now taking it before the full health committee. The bill calls for Tennessee Tech to develop a strain of marijuana that is high CBD/low THC marijuana.

“We’ve heard a lot of anecdotes about ‘does it work, does it not?’ I want to know if it does,” Carter told reporters. “I want the state of Tennessee to empirically determine if it does. I can pay an expert to come here and say anything about anything. We don’t want that. We want the truth.”

Florida is the same way. Legislators in the Sunshine State are racing a bill through that will create a $1 million grant for research and speed light-strain cannibidiol oil to epileptic children. It is believed that without it some 125,000 children in the state will die before their 20th birthdays.

Several members of the Florida legislature questioned if $1 million would be enough and wanted to know if results could include other diseases where marijuana has been known to be a helpful treatment. “We are certainly hoping this research will lead to more,” Rep. Matt Gaetz replied, citing cancer, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, stroke, Dravet’s Syndrome, pain problems and stokes among others.

In a far-reaching step, the Department of Health and Human Services has announced a clinical study that will examine marijuana’s effectiveness in treating post-traumatic stress disorder. The “far-reaching” fact is the U.S. government still considers marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug with no known medical benefits. The study will use marijuana grown at the National Institute of Drug Abuse farm in Mississippi, which is the only federally allowed source.

Currently military experts believe 22 veterans die each day from the side-effects of PTSD. Sue Sisley, an internist and psychiatrist with the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies, said that with that many soldiers killing themselves daily, it is obvious “they are not benefiting from conventional medicine.

“These people are using marijuana to help them with this debilitating disorder but they want it legalized,” she said. “They want data. They want to know what doses to take. They want to discuss it with their doctors. The Obama administration is hearing this,” she said, “because allowing us to do this study represents a major shift in policy.”

Doak Patton, who represented the Tennessee Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), said the fact the cannabis oil bill is still alive took some of the sting away from seeing the Koozer-Kuhn Act defeated. “It’s not what we want but it’s a baby step,” he told reporters. “It’s what apparently has to happen since we’re not going to go full legalization now.  It’s not ideal, but it’s not the end of the world either.”

Georgia legislator Allen Peake (R-Macon), who sponsored the marijuana legislation, took the Georgia defeat in stride as well. “I’m going to support any initiative that helps get this done,” he said evenly. “If it takes an executive order from the governor, by God we ought to be doing it.”

One thing is certain; we all agree our children should take preference over guns in every state. It’s just a matter of time before we will get it done.

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