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Texas mothers seek marijuana to treat their children's seizures

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Two mothers in Texas are now lobbying for medical marijuana after seeing positive results in other states which have allowed children with seizures to be treated with cannabis.

Jeannie Camp and Michelle Bartlett are two mothers who are hoping cannabis oil might be the treatment that, if it doesn’t bring an end to their sons’ seizures, could at least reduce the frequency.

Camp and Bartlett recently traveled to Austin to speak with the staff of Sen. Roy Fraser, R-Marble Falls. They talked about seizures and the relief their children and others could experience if cannabis oil were legal in Texas.

Activists have been trying to get a medical marijuana bill passed by the state legislature for the past 10 years, and many believe that the 2015 legislative session will be the year it happens.

In an interview with Killeen Daily Herald, the two mothers discussed their situation.

Cannabis oil is extracted from the cannabis plant. The cannabis oil that many want to have legalized for medical use in Texas would be similar to a strain of marijuana available in Colorado that has less than 1 percent tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive compound in cannabis.

The strain has more than 21 percent cannabinoid, a class of diverse compounds that act on receptors in the brain, and is what has an effect on seizures.

Camp’s belief that cannabis oil might help her sons comes from stories she’s heard, articles she’s read and documentary films she’s seen about cannabis oil and its ability to reduce or eliminate seizures in children with similar medical issues as her sons.

“If my sons could say one word to me, that would be a miracle,” she said. “If this could help their cognitive and physical abilities, it would change their world.”

Camp’s sons, Wyatt, 8, and Ayden, 3, have a rare genetic condition that has no name. It’s referred to as IQSEC2, the name of the mutated chromosome both boys carry. Bartlett’s son, Jacob, 14, has Wolf Hirschorn syndrome, a genetic disorder.

All three boys are developmentally disabled and have seizures.

Both Wyatt and Ayden have had multiple brain surgeries, including disabling communication between the right and left hemispheres and preventing the spread of seizures from one side of the brain to the other.

Wyatt is scheduled to receive his third vagal nerve stimulator. The VNS wears out because the setting has to be set high to be effective, Camp said. The procedure involves implanting the stimulator, similar to a pacemaker, under the skin of the chest wall. It sends an electrical signal at regular intervals up the vagus nerve to the brain to disrupt the electrical bursts that cause seizures.

Wyatt has eight types of seizures; his younger brother experiences four types.

Typically, the more seizures a child has, the longer the episodes last, which increases chances of death and more developmental delays.

Jacob has a disorder that results in negative reactions to many of the seizure medications on the market, Bartlett said. He takes Depakote and Keppra.

“Depakote can damage the liver over time and Jake has been on it for 10 years,” she said.

Keppra causes behavior problems in some children.

“Those drugs work most of the time, unless he’s sick, then he’ll still have a break through seizures,” Bartlett said.

If the cannabis oil works, Jacob’s liver won’t be damaged and the family could avoid the behavioral problems, which are more of an issue now that puberty has arrived, she said.

Twenty-five states and Washington, D.C., allow patients legal access to medical marijuana.

A coalition of groups including Marijuana Policy Project, DFW NORML, Texas NORML, and several other groups are actively lobbying legislators to pass legislation. They been visiting representatives with patients to discuss the need for both medical and recreational legalization.

Legislators have been receptive to changing the laws in Texas concerning marijuana, especially for allowing medical cannabis, however they are reluctant to give their full support because they say they’re not hearing from many of their constituents about the matter.

Tristan Tucker, who is deputy director of the Dallas/Fort Worth chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (DFW NORML), has spoken with more than 15 state and federal representatives about marijuana, and how legalizing this plant could benefit the health of Texans and the Texas economy.

“The more we’re out in the open talking about this, and the closer we are to session, the more open the representatives are to talk,” Tucker said. “We currently have members going with board members and liaisons to meet with state representatives to tell their story five days a week.”

Tucker knows at least a few hundred Texans have contacted their representatives.

“We have veterans, children, and parents going to speak with representatives because NORML is going to be pushing for medical marijuana legislation as our ultimate goal in 2015,” Tucker stated. “We feel like it is not only practical to submit this legislation, but it is also probable that it will pass.”

Tucker urges Texans to contact their representatives and give their opinion about marijuana; that without people contacting their representatives, those politicians will not see the needed support for them to go forward with changing the laws.

“Our representatives aren’t leaders, they’re followers, that’s why we elect them. It’s important that people read this and talk to their representatives because they need to know what our desires are as far as public policy goes.”

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Stephen Carter

Stephen Carter is a journalist and information technology specialist living in Waco, Texas. He has been working with the cannabis movement since 2009. He founded Texas Cannabis Report in 2013 to bring Texans accurate cannabis related news.

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