Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

March 19, 2014

Hemp extract oil bill moves toward House passage

By RONNIE ELLIS
CNHI

FRANKFORT — It’s now so close Rita Wooton can almost feel it — the day her 4-year-old son Eli’s life might become normal.



Eli has suffered “thousands and thousands” of severe seizures, sometimes hundreds in a single day. Rita and her husband, Ricky, have rushed Eli from their Leslie County home to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital at least 75 times, five by helicopter, when the seizures wouldn’t end and threatened Eli’s survival.



The frequency of the seizures has left Eli behind developmentally, too. He’s non-verbal and isn’t potty-trained.



“I just want a normal life. I just want a normal 4-year-old son,” said a tearful Rita Wooten following a vote by the House Judiciary Committee to support passage of a bill to allow Kentucky parents like the Wootons to legally obtain CBD oil, an extract from hemp or marijuana which has no psychoactive properties, but which has been shown to reduce such seizures.



Senate Bill 124, sponsored by Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, has already passed the Senate and after the vote in the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday, it seems headed for passage in the House as well.



Committee Chairman Rep. John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville, and Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, told the “heart-wrenching” story of a 6-month-old child in their community whose parents traveled to Oregon to obtain the CBD oil.



The alternative was a less effective drug, but that drug carried a side effect that could permanently damage little Clara Madeline Gilliam’s vision, perhaps destroying it totally.



But after her parents went to Oregon and started placing a few drops of the CBD oil under Clara’s tongue, Westerfield said, little Clara (for whom the bill is named) went from “dozens of seizures each day to almost none.”



The Wootons haven’t traveled to Oregon or Colorado where the substance is legally available, but they were prepared to. Now it probably won’t be necessary.



“I honestly thought six months ago we were going to have to seek medical relief in another state,” Rita Wooton told the committee Wednesday.



Eli, she said, still suffers 30 to 40 seizures each day, but the Wootons didn’t understand why they should have to break the law or travel at great expense to another state.



“We’ve exhausted all medical avenues,” Rita Wooton told lawmakers.



The bills from Eli’s medications and numerous trips to the Cincinnati hospital are already wreaking havoc on the family budget. The Wootons paid out $7,100 last year in medical co-pays for drugs that didn’t stop the seizures. She placed a large plastic, zip-lock plastic bag on the table before her, filled with all the drugs that have failed to relieve Eli’s seizures.



Deb McGrath, Executive Director of the Epilepsy Foundation of Kentucky, said the drug has been available for years in Europe and has been shown to be effective. It does not contain THC, the ingredient in marijuana that produces the high.



Under Denton’s measure, the oil could be prescribed and dispensed by either of Kentucky’s research hospitals at the Universities of Kentucky and Louisville which can ensure its purity and dosage. And the bill contains an emergency clause which will make it effective immediately upon passage and then the signature of the governor.



House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said he supports the measure and expects it to pass quickly through the House.



“I’m thrilled for the children and even the adults this could help in Kentucky,” Denton said after the committee vote. “The General Assembly has cast a vote that is going to mean an awful lot for Kentucky families that suffer from this.”



The bill is distinct from another before the General Assembly that would legalize medical marijuana use. That bill isn’t likely to pass during this session.



Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.