Medical marijuana bill offers hope but research requires much time
by Don McKee
February 28, 2014 12:02 AM | 1549 views | 0 0 comments | 40 40 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Don McKee
Don McKee
The medical marijuana bill approved by a state legislative committee is titled Haleigh’s Hope Act, named for Haleigh Cox, a young girl with a condition that causes severe seizures.

“It’s hope. That’s all it is. Hope. That’s what we’re fighting for,” said Corey Lowe, whose daughter Victoria, 12, suffers from mitochondrial disease that could wrack her body with up to 100 seizures a day if not controlled.

HB 885 gained approval Wednesday from a House committee after the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon), revised it to allow authorized academic medical centers in Georgia to grow, process and distribute medical cannabis. Transporting it across state lines is prohibited by federal guidelines — what irony, considering the Obama administration seeks to legitimize marijuana and its medical use is permitted in 20 states and D.C.

Peake told the committee, “I do believe that as states like Georgia lead the way it will put some pressure on the federal level to make some changes.” He said it would “be prudent for us to be ready for when those changes happen.”

Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) put the matter in true perspective. She told Peake, “I know your intentions are the best in the world. But I am having a problem with raising parents’ expectations that we are going to get them something very quickly when it looks like we may not have the ability to do that. As long as you are honest about it, that it may not come quickly ...”

Rep. Cooper is on target. Even if the cannabis derivatives help children and others stricken with conditions or diseases causing terrible seizures, academic research will take time, no doubt a long time. If marijuana is obtained for testing, clinical trials to provide the necessary empirical, scientific results will not be completed in a short time.

As Peake worked on his bill last month, researchers at New York University’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Center cautioned patients and parents about finding ways to give marijuana to their children. “But scientific studies have yet to bear out the hopes of these desperate families,” said Dr. Orrin Devinsky, director of the center and one of the leading experts in epilepsy, and Dr. Daniel Friedman, a physician at the center. They stated their concerns in a New York Times op-ed.

“The truth is we lack evidence not only for the efficacy of marijuana, but also for its safety,” the doctors said. “This concern is especially relevant in children, for whom there is good evidence that marijuana use can increase the risk of serious psychiatric disorders and long-term cognitive problems.

“The recent wave of state legislatures considering and often approving medical marijuana raises significant concerns,” they said, while “the tremendous gaps in our knowledge are not effectively conveyed to the public.”

In January, the NYU doctors began a study of cannabidiol in treating children and adults with severe drug resistant epilepsy. The study will run for one year after reaching maximal dosage. What will it find?

As Carey Lowe said, “It’s hope.”

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