Tag Archives: Sanjay Gupta

And another medical marijuana refugee is born…

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Janea and Haleigh left for Colorado yesterday. Haleigh is the little girl for whom HB885 is named “Haleigh’s Hope Act.” The awesome Rep. Allen Peake met her and immediately began his crash course into the world of medical cannabis and CBD oil, pushing this Georgia bill with everything in him.  But Haleigh’s declining health means she can’t wait. Her father must stay behind in Georgia because of his job.

HB885 has passed the senate committee but with major changes. Cultivation is out. Basically, it provides legal protection to a person caught with CBD oil. It does not help us obtain it. This was always a hurdle even with cultivation (there were different issues surrounding that). You’d have to get it in a legal state and get here without being caught. Frankly, places like Realm of Caring are not going to sell it to you knowing you plan to cross state lines against federal law because that puts them in danger of being shut down by the DEA. It’s important to understand that this bill, even if passed on the senate floor, signed by the governor and made law, would not allow everyone to run out and get it for their kids. It does prepare our state, however, for a change at the federal level. If the feds reclassify it with the DEA — as they need to — we are ready to go. And hopefully, passing this in such a conservative state will add more pressure to the federal government to get off their butts and help people.

Another twist is that a separate bill is now attached to HB885. The chair of the senate committee, Renee Unterman, has been trying to pass a bill for five years (Ava’s Law) mandating that insurance companies cover treatment for autism (Georgia is one of a minority of states that don’t require autism to be covered). A compromise bill that increases benefits up to age 6 is now part of a package with HB885 called the Kid Care Act. The autism bill has also been tacked onto HB943, which would prevent insurance discrimination over certain types of cancer treatment. The reason is that the autism bill alone would have to go through subcommittee in the House, and thus far, they haven’t been willing to hear it. By tacking it onto bills that have already passed the House, it bypasses the subcommittee when it goes back to the House for approval for the change.

Now the bill must go through the Senate Rules Committee and then go to the Senate floor for a vote. Then it goes back to the House for approval. Last day of session is March 20. Nothing like going down to the wire! Once again, if you haven’t e-mailed your Georgia state senator yet to support HB885, you can find out who yours is at openstates.org.

Also of note are two op-eds in the AJC today. Eli Hogan shares his experience living with Crohn’s Disease and it is a great read. It is followed by a  counter-point from Rep. Sharon Cooper. As you read it, please keep in mind that she voted to pass HB885 twice. First out of committee, then on the floor. I would also urge you to read some of the excellent comments from parents below the essays.

If you missed Sanjay Gupta’s follow up to last year’s special Weed, you can find it here. The original is here. Anyone who cannot invest the 45 minutes it takes to watch at least one of these has no right to question the people who are fighting for these changes.

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A 15-month-old dies of red tape.

“I came here today with the hope that this administration would do everything possible, make every resource available—there is no reason this disease cannot be conquered. We do not need in fighting, this is not a political issue. This is a health issue. This is not a gay issue. This is a human issue. And I do not intend to be defeated by it. I came here today in the hope that my epitaph would not read that I died of red tape.”  -Roger Gail Lyon to Congress in 1984, shortly before his death from AIDS.

“It’s a simple issue. Please don’t let my daughter die, Governor.” Father of Vivian who has Dravet syndrome, Brian Wilson, to Gov. Chris Christie

I recently became a member of a Facebook group about the use of pediatric cannabis, consisting of parents who are using medical marijuana to treat their children’s serious illnesses, as well as parents who are seeking to do so. As we live in Georgia, I fear we will be at the end of the list of states to make it available, but I’m wanting to keep an eye on things as you probably saw in my previous post. I simply don’t understand why people are so afraid of MMJ, but it’s okay that my son takes Onfi which carries this potential side effect.

Two members of the group have a daughter with Dravet Syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy. If you watched Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s special Weed, which featured Charlotte, the little girl in Colorado who had her life transformed by MMJ, you have seen what Dravet can do to a person. This family lives in New Jersey, a legal state, but one with some of the largest restrictions since Gov. Chris Christie shakes in fear that he is treading a slippery slope in which — gasp! — adults might get high just for fun. This family had just completed jumping through the hoops, completing paperwork and sending the $200 fee to the state last week. Her marijuana application is pending.

On November 27th Sabina Rose suffered a 25-hour seizure that caused brain damage and swelling. She died December 2.

But, hey, at least those darn adults can’t get high.

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Get out of the way of medical marijuana.

Medical Cannabis Growing Operation in Oakland,...
Medical Cannabis Growing Operation in Oakland, California (Photo credit: Rusty Blazenhoff)

Marijuana is not my thing. I know there are many people who would say that it’s just a matter of finding the right kind, but I’m more of a glass of wine kind of girl. That’s just my taste. I’ve never been big on the legalization of recreational marijuana, but I also didn’t oppose it. I’ve been pretty indifferent to the whole thing.

Then intractable epilepsy entered my life. To date Connor has tried seven seizure medications. He is currently on three and being slowly weaned off one. All have the potential for some pretty serious side effects, and he still has 1-4 seizures most days. And we’re lucky. As much as his seizures suck and play a role in his delays, they are not nearly as bad as what other families are dealing with. (Knocking on wood) Connor has never had a tonic clonic (grand mal) or status seizure (requiring medical intervention to stop). I’ve never had to watch him thrash painfully on the floor, or see him intubated because he’s been pumped with so many meds to stop an unrelenting seizure that he stops breathing on his own.

That is the reality for many people, and Connor is at risk for this as well. I may yearn for full seizure control, but there are people that would kill for the degree of control we have. They watch their kid have 300 seizures a day and ER visits are a regular occurrence. This isn’t some random anecdote. I KNOW these people. Mostly online, but I know them (as I write this, Connor just woke up from his nap on the couch next to me and had a seizure within a couple minutes).

Some people oppose medical marijuana because they can’t see beyond Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign. Others oppose it because we don’t have the studies to prove it or to indicate the appropriate dosages for pediatric patients. Some are just too caught up in the fact that people will abuse the privilege of medical marijuana by obtaining a card under false pretenses. Yes, people abuse it. They claim pain and just want to smoke weed. So what? The solution isn’t to punish the people that really need it. Shall I name a few of the far more dangerous legal medications that people abuse?

Unfortunately, thanks to the arbitrary demonization of marijuana, decades upon decades of opportunity for study have been wasted. The people who want to try MM for their children are desperate and don’t have time for politics. There have been countless stories of kids who have found their miracle in the form of a plant. That doesn’t mean it will work for everyone, and I’m not advocating it be a frontline med until we have more data, but it’s no easy task to complete clinical studies and gather that data when you are dealing with an illegal substance.

From WebMD:

Half of all epilepsy patients who are initially started on one anti-seizure drug remain seizure-free for at least a year, a new study confirms.

Among patients followed for as long as 26 years, initial response to drug treatments strongly predicted future seizure control.

Yet less than 1% of patients who failed to respond to three anti-seizure drug regimens achieved adequate seizure control on subsequent drug treatments even though some were treated with as many as nine different drugs or drug combinations.

The findings make it clear that epilepsy patients who are candidates for surgery or other non-drug treatments should be considered for these procedures earlier rather than later, says neurologist Patricia E. Penovich, MD, of the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Epilepsy Group in St. Paul.

“These patients don’t have to wait until they have failed five or six different drug regimens,” she tells WebMD. “If their seizures are not controlled by the first few medications it is reasonable to consider surgery.

And when surgery doesn’t work? Or if you aren’t even a candidate for surgery? Or in the case of TSC, you have a successful brain surgery only to have another tuber fire up?

If you can stand in the way of desperate parents and individuals struggling against the devastating effects of constant seizures, then congratulations. You’ve clearly never seen your loved one suffer. But it’s selfish to further your own agenda at the expense of others.

There’s no more time to argue. We’ve wasted enough.

Articles:

Paige Figi appears on The Doctors to share Charlotte’s story. (video)

A New York Times blog about the potential of medical marijuana and how the laws are preventing researchers from effectively studying it.

Medical Marijuana: a Patient Perspective, a patients’s use for depression and anxiety.

Families are having to move to Colorado to treat their children including this family battling infantile spasms.

Paige Figi’s story and living with Dravet Syndrome (mom used to vote AGAINST weed legalization).

Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s essay on why he changed his mind on weed.

Would medical marijuana help Lorelai?

Parents suing the state of Arizona because their son benefits from MM.

A family that has had to split up in order to obtain the MM their daughter needs.

Boy with tuberous sclerosis and autism benefitting from MM.

10-year-old with Doose syndrome finally seizure free.

NYU medical conference on use in seizures and other neuro disorders.

Marijuana timeline by PBS.