Thursday, April 10, 2014

State pursuing two options to make cannabis oil available to epileptic children

Posted By on Thu, Apr 10, 2014 at 6:29 PM

Gov. Nathan Deal, flaned by state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, who pushed for medical marijuana under the Gold Dome
  • Thomas Wheatley
  • Gov. Nathan Deal, flanked by state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, who pushed for medical marijuana under the Gold Dome
There's good news and bad news in Georgia's medical marijuana push. The good: Children who suffer from crippling seizures might get relief with cannabis oil. The downside is that setting up the programs to legally access the form of medical marijuana will take some time.

Gov. Nathan Deal today said state officials plan to pursue two options simultaneously, per an executive order, to start providing cannabis oil to patients. The most promising solution, he said, would involve Georgia Regents University, the state's medical school, partnering with G.W. Pharmaceuticals, a company that's already developed a "purified liquid cannabinoid" and which is currently undergoing federal trials. GRU would create a clinical trial and could partner with other research facilities across the state. The company has already contacted a GRU professor about expanding those clinical trials and it's willing to continue the talks, Deal told reporters.

The other option: the state could start its own clinical trial using cannabis oil derived from marijuana grown by the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the University of Mississippi. GRU would also work on that effort as well. That solution would take longer because it requires federal approval.

There will be no immediate relief for children who endure crippling seizures multiple times a day, Deal said. And setting up the system could take many months. But the process will help the administration determine if additional legislation is required when the General Assembly reconvenes next January.

"There is a sense of urgency here," Deal said. "These families need hope."

According to the Macon Telegraph's Maggie Lee's count, it's the third time this year that the governor has stepped in and proposed an executive fix to something state lawmakers weren't able to accomplish. Legislation that would have made it easier for parents to access cannabis oil to treat their children's conditions was held hostage in the final days of the legislative session and ultimately failed to pass.

When we asked why he didn't tackle the issue during the legislative session, Deal said that lawmakers "were all doing a pretty good job on their own. I don't try to unduly insert myself into issues like that. Even if the legislation had passed we still would've had to have deal with the implementation phase of it. We're trying to accelerate [the process]."

Blaine and Shannon Cloud of Smyrna, whose daughter Alaina lives with Dravet Syndrome and would benefit from the oil, attended Deal's announcement. They said they were optimistic about the news, saying there's "still a ways to go but it's still a big step."

The couple, who became one of the cannabis oil movement's public faces during the the legislative session, had previously discussed moving to Colorado, where marijuana has been legalized, if Georgia did not legalize the use of cannabis oil. Though there's little scientific research on the oil's effectiveness, it has been likened to a miracle drug for children suffering from epileptic disorders.

Their daughter's seizures are currently partially kept in check thanks to medication, but that comes with severe side effects, including loss of sleep, decreased appetite, and behavior issues. If the proposed programs were able to start in Georgia, Blaine told reporters, the medicine would "help us actually get to know who she is."

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