Sunday, July 20, 2014 Democratic Illinois Governor Pat Quinn legalized medical marijuana for adults and children who have epilepsy. This is merely the latest update to the state’s medical marijuana regulations, which were just approved last Tuesday, July 15, 2014.
Initially, conservative lawmakers were hesitant to approve medical marijuana for children, and the law originally was only going to allow it for residents 18 years and older during the four-year pilot program. However, parents’ appeals for their epileptic children not helped by conventional medications influenced the vote. Children with parental approval will be able to be treated for seizures with the oil of medical-grade marijuana, also known as cannabidiol (CBD) oil, a non-psychoactive component of the plant, once the law goes fully into effect in Illinois in January of 2015.
For those with seizures which are not treatable by available medications or surgery, CBD oil is a source of hope. Although scientific literature on marijuana’s effectiveness on epilepsy is scarce due to the illegal status marijuana used to hold in the entire U.S., more studies are being conducted and articles published as CBD oil becomes legal state-by-state. So far, it is only legal in Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin. Illinois will be the ninth state to legalize CBD oil.
Although the research and data are not as robust as health practitioners wish, there is real-world evidence that marijuana has been effective for some children. One particular strain, called Charlotte’s Web, has been particularly helpful for a little girl, Charlotte Figi, from Colorado. After two years of taking the extract, she is nearly seizure-free. In California, 434 patients are being treated with Charlotte’s Web, and there are thousands more on the waiting list.
While officials work out the details of new regulations, some proponents of the drug are concerned that lives are at stake. In June, New York amended their medical marijuana law to help children with epilepsy. On Friday, however, The Buffalo News reported that a nine-year-old girl whose family was enthusiastically awaiting the new legislation to go into effect so she could be treated for a form of epilepsy which hit her with hundreds of seizures a day, died Thursday night. Many of those eagerly anticipating this treatment feel that the legalization of medical marijuana to treat adults and children with epilepsy cannot come soon enough to Illinois and other states.
Epilepsy is characterized as a neurological disorder with a wide variety of unpredictable seizures which range in severity. Effective treatments vary from person-to-person. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, 2.3 million Americans have epilepsy and almost half of them live with uncontrolled seizures which often result in serious injury and even death. There are 130,000 people in Illinois living with epilepsy.
Patients will be able to apply for the required medical marijuana identification cards beginning in September 2014. These cards will require an annual application which costs $50 for disabled persons and veterans, and $100 for all other patients. In addition to treating epilepsy, there are dozens of medical diagnoses which will also qualify for medical marijuana. These include Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, Crohn’s disease, glaucoma, hepatitis C, HIV, Lou Gehrig’s disease, muscular dystrophy and others. Between now and January 2015, when medical marijuana becomes legal, the Illinois Department of Public Health will write and finalize the regulations for the treatment of epileptic adults and children.
By Sarah Hutchins
Guardian Liberty Voice
The Epilepsy Foundation
Tampa Bay Times
The Buffalo News
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