Thousands of sick Americans including children with untreatable maladies are being prevented from getting medicine that could help – simply because they live in the wrong state.
One of those people is Sophia Nazzarine, a 7-year-old girl who at one point suffered from as many as 20 seizures a day that are untreatable with mainstream medicine. Her parents want to give her cannabis oil, which has helped children in other states with seizures. But it’s illegal in Ohio, where they live.
“We should be able to try a pretty benign plant before you take out a quarter of my daughter’s brain,” Sophia’s dad, Scott Nazzarine, said in a new video posted online.
Sophia has suffered from seizures since she was eight months old. Seeking to stop the seizures, doctors performed a pair of surgeries where they removed part of her frontal lobe, but her seizures did not disappear.
“We’ve tried everything else that they could come up with to try and stop these seizures — none of it has worked,” Scott Nazzarine said.
The law, he said, is inconsistent.
“I have clients who are abusing the same medicines my 5-year-old is taking,” Nazzarine, a public defense lawyer, told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “That’s terrifying to me that’s she’s taking drugs that are so heavy, some people want to buy them on the street.”
Sophia’s mother, Nicole Nazzarine, said in the video the family wants to “try a plant that is natural.”
Cannabis oil can be more effective than drugs or surgery in some cases of epilepsy, said Michael Privitera, the director of epilepsy center at the University of Cincinnati Neuroscience Institute. The problem is that cannabis oil is considered a Schedule I drug under federal law. That means the federal government considers it an illegal narcotic, just like heroin or LSD.
It is the cannabidiol, also known as CBD, in the marijuana or cannabis oil that is believed to help stop seizures.
David Hibbitt, a resident of the United Kingdom, claims he used cannabis oil to treat his bowel cancer that surgery, radiation and chemotherapy could not stop.
“It’s kind of absurd that your zip code determines whether you can get a treatment or not get a treatment that you think might be effective,” Privitera said in the video.
Legalization Efforts Advanced
Inspired by stories like Sophia’s, efforts to legalize cannabis oil are advancing around the country – and getting support from both sides of the aisle.
The GOP-controlled lower house of the Oklahoma state legislature approved a bill by a vote of 85-5 authorizing the state to investigate the use of cannabis oil to treat children with epilepsy. Meanwhile, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, a Republican, said he would sign a bill allowing limited medicinal use of cannabis oil in the Volunteer State.
The Tennessee bill allows people diagnosed with conditions that create seizures to use cannabis oil as a treatment. Such a person would have to get a recommendation from a doctor and then travel to other states to purchase legal cannabis oil and bring it back to Tennessee.
“We do plan to sign that,” Haslam told The Tennessean newspaper.
There is also some progress on the federal level. US Senators Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) are sponsoring the Compassionate Access Research Expansion and Respect States (CAPERS) Act, which would reduce the federal government’s power to ban medicinal marijuana. It also would remove marijuana’s Schedule I narcotics classification and support more research into the subject.
Kate Hintz, the mother of a girl suffering from epilepsy and seizures, said the bill is needed.
“As the mother of a child with a severe seizure disorder, anxiously waiting to get access to a medication that is already helping thousands of others is unbearable,” Hintz said. “Let’s end the fear and stigma associated with marijuana, and instead allow this bill to provide research, medicine, and long-needed relief to so many. It cannot come fast enough, especially for my daughter.”
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