MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Parents with children suffering severe seizures defied the odds Thursday to get the Alabama Legislature to approve a bill allowing the use of a marijuana derivative to try to control the seizures.
Pelham police officer Dustin Chandler started pushing the bill to help his 3-year-old daughter Carly and other children suffering from severe forms of epilepsy and other illness causing frequent seizures. He was joined at the Statehouse by other parents and their ill children. Legislators told them repeatedly that major bills don't pass the first year they are introduced, and a bill mentioning marijuana would be especially hard to pass in a year when the Legislature is up for election.
But the bill went through the Senate and House without a dissenting vote and received final passage Thursday when the Senate voted 27-0 to go along with minor changes the House made to it. It now goes to Gov. Robert Bentley, who plans to sign it after it is reviewed by his legal staff.
"It's like a miracle. This does not happen in Alabama. We are the most conservative state," said Jena Dalton of Madison, whose 20-month-old daughter Charlotte has Dravet Syndrome and suffers about 300 seizures per month.
"If we can cut some of those down, it will be great," she said as her daughter played nearby.
The bill authorizes the University of Alabama at Birmingham's Department of Neurology to do a study of the marijuana derivative cannabidiol, or CBD oil, to treat severe seizures. The Legislature is providing $1 million to the university to fund the five-year study and determine the effectiveness of cannabidiol. Participants in the study who are prescribed the marijuana oil will have legal protection from state criminal charges.
The study cannot proceed until UAB gets approval from U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Administration. The chairman of UAB's Department of Neurology, Dr. David Standaert, said Thursday the university will begin the regulatory steps to create the cannbidiol program.
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