NC Rep. Jones takes up case to legalize medical marijuana in some instances

By Molly Parker – Wilmington StarNews, originally published Jacksonville News: Monday, December 16, 2013 at 16:35 PM.

U.S. Rep. Walter Jones has taken up the case of a number of desperate North Carolina parents who are hoping state lawmakers will legalize medicinal marijuana for children with uncontrollable seizures.

In a statement, Jones said that several North Carolina parents of children with life-threatening illnesses have come to him with a “compelling argument that political leaders in North Carolina should consult with medical professionals to determine the efficacy of the use of medical marijuana in certain instances.”

The Republican congressman, whose 3rd District covers parts of Pender and New Hanover counties, said these parents have “exhausted all other available options to provide relief for their kids.”

“I believe this issue should certainly be studied at the state level, and I encourage our state elected officials to give this, and other potential treatment options, the attention that they deserve.”

In an interview with the StarNews several weeks ago, Gov. Pat McCrory said he didn’t know much about the issue, but he promised to study it and get back to the paper. His office, though, has since refused on numerous occasions to comment on his position regarding legalizing medicinal marijuana for children with epilepsy.

“If there isn’t legislation, we will pass on commenting,” said Ryan Tronovich, McCrory’s spokesman.

Several parents of children with uncontrollable seizures have joined together via a Facebook page to advocate legalizing a treatment option in North Carolina that has shown some promise for children with epilepsy in other states.

For children, the marijuana is taken orally and not smoked. The strain given to children is low in tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the component of marijuana that’s psychoactive, and high in cannabidiol, or CBD, which has been shown to have medical qualities.

Another one of the parents advocating for legalization of medicinal marijuana for children in North Carolina is Liz Gorman of Raleigh. She’s been at the forefront of many of the discussions with political leaders in recent weeks.

“I don’t feel we’ve gotten as far as we’ve wanted to” in talks with politicians, she said, but added that she had a “fruitful conversation with Congressman Jones in September.”

“He understood the issue we were facing with our kids and felt that CBD oil did show promise in children with severe epilepsy, given that it didn’t have psychoactive properties.”

Though it’s a state, not federal, issue, Gorman said Jones offered to help facilitate meetings with members of the North Carolina House and Senate to discuss it.

“That is what we’re looking forward to getting going sometime soon,” she said. “I had a meeting yesterday with a North Carolina representative that went quite well, and a lot of people have spoken to their representatives or staffers, and a lot of people are working on it right now. I’m hopeful we’re actually going to get somewhere, get some momentum behind us.”

Gorman said she’s hopeful for legislation in the short session that begins in May.

But she’s not waiting for that time. Gorman is moving to Colorado with her daughter Madeline on Thursday. Her husband will stay in Raleigh because of his job.

Madeline, 7, suffers from catastrophic epilepsy and functions at the level of a 1½-year-old. At the worst, she was having 300 to 400 seizures a day, or seven to eight seizure “clusters” lasting up to 40 minutes each. Madeline had experienced some reprieve from her seizures following a risky brain surgery, but the seizures are returning, Gorman said.

“So we’re going to move on to Colorado,” she said. “I wish that it were available here but I can’t wait months in hopes we can address it during the short session, so we’ve decided to go on out there and get her treated there.”

Gorman said she’ll continue the fight from afar and hopes she can eventually return home.

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