- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 5, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Dustin Chandler said his 2-year-old daughter Carly has three to five seizures each day from a severe neurological condition she has battled since infancy.

Prescribed medications have done nothing to help, he said.

Her best treatment, he believes, could be a marijuana plant extract called cannabidiol, also known as CBD oil, and there is anecdotal evidence that suggests the oil is effective in treating seizure disorders.

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday voted 8-3 to approve a bill aimed at allowing people to possess the oil if they have certain medical conditions. Parents of children with seizure disorders have pressed to make the oil available. Supporting lawmakers said they are hoping to get the bill approved this session but that their biggest hurdle could be political fear about approving anything marijuana-related in an election year.

“We’ve been battling the stigma from the M-word,” Chandler said.

Chandler, a Pelham police officer who often handles narcotics cases, said the bill is not about legalizing marijuana.

“We are trying to legalize this form of medicine that is derived from the plant,” Chandler said.

CBD oil is low in tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana that makes users feel high.

“You can’t get high off this,” bill sponsor, Sen. Paul Sanford, R-Madison, told the committee.

Sanford’s legislation does not outright legalize the oil. However, it gives patients and their caretakers a justifiable defense if charged with drug possession over the oil. The person would have to have written proof of a diagnosis such as a seizure disorder.

Chandler said Carly started having seizures at just eight weeks old. She was eventually diagnosed with CDKL5, a rare genetic disorder.

CBD oil is believed to curb the brain’s excessive electrical and chemical activity that results in seizures, Chandler said. Carly is not expected to walk or talk, but her father is hopeful the oil could improve her daily quality of life and long-term prognosis.

Judiciary committee members on Wednesday asked questions about where people would obtain the oil and if there’s evidence of its effectiveness.

Sanford said the evidence is anecdotal, but clinical trials are ongoing.

Republican Rep. Mike Ball of Madison, who is sponsoring the House version, said he has worried political fear, particularly in an election year, could kill the bill.

However, he said the bill appears to be picking up steam as more people learn about it.

“The public is starting to understand what this is. The political fear is shifting from what will happen if we pass it, to might what happen if we don’t,” Ball said.

Chandler said his hope is to control Carly’s seizures and improve her cognitive functioning.

“I’d love to hear my daughter talk. I’d love hear her say one word. You know that is something most parents take for granted,” Chandler said.

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