Rep. Gage Froerer candidly admitted that he does not know the long term effects of a cannabis-oil treatment for Utah children with severe epilepsy—but he does know the consequences of not doing anything. “Most of these kids don't live to be 18,” Froerer said. And while he admitted the treatment likely wouldn't give them full lives, it would improve them. “If we can give them a day, a week, or a month o a higher quality of life then I feel the state of Utah owes these parents to seek that [treatment] out.”---
The kind of cannabis oil that Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville want the state to allow to be used by parents of children who suffer from debilitating, life-shortening seizures is derived more from a cannabidiol or CBD and has only .03 percent of tetrahydrocannibinol or THC—which means the extract doesn't offer much of a “high” but it has been shown to help reduce seizures significantly in children with the most serious forms of epilepsy. As a treatment it's expected to potentially help thousand of Utah children.
Annette Maughan president of the Epilepsy Association of Utah stressed that the bill was hoping to allow the treatment as a last resort. For children who suffer through as many as 300 seizures a week, parents know all the existing medications out there come with trade offs.
One drug calcifies the bones so that a child can break the bones in her feet simply from walking. Another drug used in the long term will lead to blindness, and a phenobarbitol Maughan had to use on her own son nearly killed him but also brought him out of a state of near constant seizure.
“These are the chipper, happy little side effect some of us are willing to take the risk on if it will reduce seizures,” Maughan said, adding that if the seizures aren't controlled they will lead inevitably to death.
Froerer's House Bill 105 was well received, but at this point in the legislative session his bill has already passed through a committee and was voted out of the house, and in the process has undergone seven different drafts. The bill as it is now requires that a person to get approved to have this treatment couldn't just go to a family doctor but would have to get approval from a board-certified neurologist. That approval would then be taken to the health department who would be able to offer a waiver to the individual to allow them to possess a cannabis-oil treatment that they would likely purchase over the border in Colorado where they are available. The treatment would have to contain .03 THC or less.
The bill among other components would also allow the health department to study the effects of treatments used on Utah families that obtain the waivers. Froerer did caution that if his bill became law, these families would still be in violation of federal law for possessing cannabis-oil treatments, but argued they likely wouldn't be a priority of the federal Drug Enforcement Agency.
“Hopefully they've got bigger fish to fry,” Froerer said.
Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden moved the bill be passed out and applauded the sponsor and the mothers of children with epilepsy for bringing the issue forward.
“I'm also very proud of the parents for not wanting to break the law which I would undoubtedly do if I had this situation,” Christensen said. “I would do whatever it took to protect a child of mine from this debilitating, devastating condition.” The bill passed out of the committee favorably and by a unanimous vote and now heads to the senate floor for further debate. If successful there, the bill will then head to the Governor to be signed into law.
To read HB 105 click here. To contact Rep. Froerer about his bill click here. To find your state senator to contact them about this bill click here. For more updates from the hill visit CityWeekly.net and follow @EricSPeterson and @ColbyFrazierLP on Twitter.