- Associated Press - Monday, March 10, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - A Huntsville legislator is working on changes to a bill that he hopes will persuade the Senate to approve the use of marijuana oil to treat children’s seizures.

Republican Sen. Paul Sanford of Huntsville and other advocates plan on Tuesday to unveil the changes, which Sanford said should ease some concerns about the measure he has proposed.

Sanford’s bill was on the Senate’s work agenda Thursday, but the Senate broke for the weekend without getting to it. Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said he expects it to be back on the work agenda when the Senate resumes work Tuesday afternoon.

Families with children suffering from frequent seizures due to epilepsy have been visiting the Legislature for two months in an effort to emphasize the potential good marijuana oil can do and to dispel fears about its legalization.

Greg Gibbs of Madison has been pushing his granddaughter’s stroller along the halls, introducing 19-month-old Charlotte Dolton to legislators and explaining that she has a form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome. Because of that, she suffers frequent seizures.

“Each seizure causes brain damage, so we are fighting the clock,” he said.

Gibbs‘ family wants to be able to treat her seizures with a marijuana plant extract called cannabidoil, also known as CBD oil. Sanford’s bill and similar legislation offered in the House by Republican Rep. Mike Ball of Madison do not legalize the oil, but give patients and their caretakers a justifiable defense if charged with drug possession. Those in possession of the oil would have to have written proof of a diagnosis such as a seizure disorder.

Gibbs said the evidence he has seen from other states where the oil is available has convinced him it would reduce his granddaughter’s seizures significantly and keep her from suffering brain damage.

He said the oil is produced from marijuana that is grown to be low in tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main psychoactive substance in marijuana. “It can’t get anybody high,” he said.

Gibbs tells people the legislation has nothing to do with a broader medical marijuana bill that has been introduced this session or with recreational marijuana. “There is marijuana pot and then there is miracle marijuana,” he said.

Barry Yarbrough of Haleyville is also walking the halls, but without his 14-year-old granddaughter, Allie Swann. Her parents moved her from Haleyville to Colorado last fall to be able to use the marijuana oil to legally treat her epilepsy. “She probably wouldn’t be alive now if not for going out there,” he said.

Sanford said the biggest challenge his bill faces is legislators’ concerns about voting for anything pertaining to marijuana in an election year when their opponents might use it against them.

Yarbrough said he understands legislators’ concerns, and he was skeptical until he saw the change in his granddaughter.

“She has never gone two or three days of her life without a seizure. She went 21 days without a seizure and her motor skills have improved,” he said. “We were hoping for a 10 percent change. We are at 60 percent.”

If Sanford’s bill passes the Senate, it would still have to be passed by the House and signed by the governor. Ball’s bill has not yet been considered by the House.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide