Families Push for Medical Marijuana to Stop Their Kids' Seizures
AMHERST, N.Y. -- Seven-year-old Maya Valle is missing an important protein in her neurons which causes her to have dozens of seizures every day. She can't walk or talk.
"Every seizure she endures causes further neurological, cognitive and physical damage. Not only that, but every seizure puts her life in danger," said Lisa Valle, whose daughter Maya has a genetic neurological disorder.
Lisa Valle is just one of many parents fighting to get access to medical marijuana to help stop her child's seizures. Many health professionals say the CBD oils from the cannabis plant don't have the psychotropic component of marijuana and can help with certain diseases with fewer side effects than traditional medications.
"The one seizure that cannabis could stop from happening could be the one that saves her life," said Valle.
Twenty-three states, including New York, have legalized medical marijuana, but federally, it's still a Schedule One drug, like heroin and LSD. That means, right now, federal law can prosecute patients, doctors and caregivers who use or prescribe the drug for medical purposes.
"It's considered a drug that has no medical use, which we know is not true but that means the DEA has to enforce the existing laws," said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York.
"If doctors can't prescribe it without having their license taken away, they can't be asked to take that risk. It's wrong to ask them to take those kinds of risks. It means getting the medicine is so difficult. For a parent to want to go to Colorado and bring it back but have to risk federal prosecution and risk their kids being taken away, it's a risk most parents won't take."
"We're frustrated because there's no reason for this. We're asking the public to please support us and to help save our children's lives," said Buck Williams, whose son has a neurological disorder.
That's why Gillibrand has proposed the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States, or CARERS Act. It would reclassify marijuana to schedule two, which would recognize it for having a legitimate medical use and protect people from federal prosecution.
Doctors say one of the most important pieces of the legislation is that it would ease regulations for clinical trials and research on the drug's efficacy.
"This is something that I think is a natural extension of science and our patients will benefit at the end, and if we find that there's specifically no benefit, that will be published, but right now the publications are lacking," said Dr. Laszlo Mechtler, DENT Neurological Institute Medical Director.
Gillibrand says she has high hopes for the bill, as it has gotten bipartisan support. She hopes to have it passed by the end of the year.
The CARERS Act would also allow all Veterans Affairs Hospitals across the country to prescribe medical marijuana.