Texas’ first medical marijuana bill, specifically for epilepsy patients, is headed to the governor’s desk. Senate Bill 339 would legalize low-THC marijuana based oil, allowing doctor-prescribed oil derived from the marijuana plant for use in treating intractable epilepsy. The bill allows up to three dispensaries licensed by the Texas Department of Public Safety to sell medical marijuana oil to certain epilepsy patients who have a prescription.
“This is kind of like the difference between grape juice and wine, and we’re legalizing grape juice,” said state Rep. Stephanie Klick (R-Fort Worth).
The low THC levels would mean there would be little chance for abuse of the substance.
House gives cannabis oil for epilepsy preliminary OK
“These families have no other options, and this provides another treatment option available to them,” Klick told KVUE after Monday’s vote in the Texas House of Representatives. Several families with children suffering from epilepsy congratulated Klick after anxiously watching the vote from the gallery. Among them were Jeff and Shawna Davis and their 3-year-old daughter, Karley. The Texas House voted Monday to approve a bill legalizing low-THC marijuana based oil.
Diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome right after her first birthday, Karley suffers from the same type of epilepsy other parents report being treated effectively by oils high in cannabidiol (CBD), which is found in marijuana along with the psychoactive chemical THC. Special strains of marijuana are now being grown to maximize the level of CBD while minimizing THC. Oil from the plant is then administered orally to treat seizures.
“It’s got so little THC in it that you can’t get high. So the people that want to abuse drugs don’t even want it,” said Jeff Davis.
Opponents of the bill disagree with Klick’s grape juice vs. wine theory.
“Medical to decriminalizing to legalization, they’re all part of the same picture,” state Rep. Mark Keough (R-The Woodlands) warned fellow House members during floor debate on the bill.
State Rep. Tony Dale, who voted against the bill, said he believes representatives aren’t factoring in long-term ramifications.
“We all know the human brain develops in the early 20s, and if you’re giving children a particular drug, and you don’t know the impact on their development…while it may stop a particular symptom, it may have other side effects that are undetermined,” Dale said.
In addition to concerns about opening the door to other marijuana legislation, Klick told KVUE some members were initially concerned that CBD oil had not been approved by the FDA. “With pediatric epilepsy patients, it’s very common to not have an FDA-approved product,” said Klick, who, like other supporters of the bill, warned that patients can’t wait the years FDA approval is likely to take. “We hope to have access as early as 2016, potentially, so that we can try this medication on [Karley]. Her current medications are not controlling her seizures.”
Dr. Sami Aboumatar, an Austin epidemiologist, said he agrees no one knows all the side effects.
“We really need a controlled medical trial,” Aboumatar said. “We need to understand how it’s metabolized in our body? Does it interfere with other medications?” Abounatar said the bill’s passing means the possibility for more answers and more relief for his patients, who, like Karley, still haven’t found a drug or treatment that works. Twenty-five percent of those who suffer from epilepsy need more options, Aboumatar said. Klick agrees.
“There are 150,000 Texans who suffer from intractable epilepsy, and for these folks, they’ve tried all the FDA options. They have no other options. We ought to give them the right to try,” Klick said.