First hemp oil cards issued in state to treat epilepsy
Advocate: CBD oil is to epileptics what insulin is to diabetics
The first hemp oil registration cards have been issued in the southwestern part of the state to treat persons with epilepsy, said Dolores Halbin, Barry County native and advocate for the legalization of medical marijuana.
Two St. Louis-based companies, Noah's Arc Foundation and BeLeaf, have been authorized by the Department of Agriculture to produce the oil.
HB 2238, passed in 2014, legalized hemp oil, containing CBD (endocannabinoids), an ingredient in marijuana containing medicinal properties, to treat specified individuals with epilepsy. To obtain a card, a patient must first try mainstream medications, then a neurologist must provide a recommendation for the oil, before it can be purchased from one of the two producers.
Halbin says the oil is difficult to obtain, and is imploring lawmakers to move faster in the 2017 legislative session to make cannabis more accessible, because children are dying.
"There are 31 classes of epilepsy medications," Halbin said. "They all have death or suicide as a side effect. No doctor can recommend cannabis as a first-line treatment, which we need to change. These neurologists tell parents that they always be prepared to lose their child, because any one of the seizures could kill them.
"We've lost four children in six months. Just because you pass a law doesn't mean CBD oil appears on the shelf. We're not moving fast enough, we need to treat this like a national emergency. If we treated diabetes like this, people would be dead. The government should be making CBD by the barrels. CBD oil is to epileptic children what insulin is to a diabetic. We're withholding treatment because of greed and ignorance."
Four-year-old Ayden Markum, of Springfield, is among epileptic patients who recently got a hemp oil card, and his mother has seen remarkable improvement.
"When he was first diagnosed, he could not go more than an hour without having a seizure," said Ashley Markum. "Ten days after we started the hemp oil, we were at 72 hours of no seizures, then 15 days in a row without any, and that was huge. And there's not only been seizure reduction but developmental improvements."
However, Markum's mother said he suffered serious injuries from medications he was required to use before getting the oil.
"One caused a liver injury," Ashley Markum said. "Another affected his swallowing, so we ended up with a feeding tube, and the medication didn't even help."
Markum said it doesn't take much THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive property in the plant, to be effective.
"I think the stigma of being high is still there, and my goal is to educate how safe it really is, that there aren't really any bad side effects," she said. "The law in Missouri says it has to be a certain percent of THC, but it's a very minute amount. Others are using it in other states for muscle issues or cancer and their kids are functioning now."
"Prior to the invention of oil, literally everything in our country was made from hemp -- clothes, paper, rope and oil," Halbin said. "Willie Nelson uses hemp to drive his cars. Henry Ford built a car from hemp in the 1940s.
"To be hemp, it has to have less than three percent THC. Patients don't need a lot of THC, but have to have some for it to be effective."
Halbin said children generally improve on the three percent TCH ratio, but can actually go into remission if slighter more is added.
"By pulverizing the entire plant, kids get multiple benefits of all the endocannabinoids," she said. "One [in Colorado] just hit 700 days seizure-free. Our kids in Missouri can and will improve on the oil, but they need it to be available."
Hemp oil has the ability to treat many common conditions besides epilepsy, Halbin said, like Alzheimer's, chronic pain, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, severe migraines, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis and neuropathies.
There are several bills on the table concerning medical cannabis, but two, specifically, seek to expand current law:
* SB153 (identical to SB912), by Sen. Robert Schaaf, R-St. Joseph would allow cannabis to legally treat conditions besides epilepsy.
* SJR 29 by Sen. Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City would allow the DHSS to grant licenses for the cultivation and sale of marijuana for medical use. Retail sales would be subject to a 4 percent tax, of which proceeds would benefit military veterans.
A new petition sponsored by New Approach Missouri, has also just been approved by the Secretary of State, which would allow for more conditions besides just epilepsy to be treated by cannabis.
"This bill does what 28 other states have done," said Dan Viets, president of New Approach Missouri and a Columbia-based attorney. "It creates a very closely regulated and taxed system to allow patents who have a doctor's recommendation to have legal access to cannabis as medicine, and also allows them to cultivate a few plants if they have their doctor's approval and abide by the law. Many suffer from ailments that respond well to cannabis."
Viets has been advocating for persons to have access to cannabis for over 40 years.
"I saw the horrible suffering inflicted on good people because of marijuana prohibition," he said. "It inspired me to go to law school."
Show Me Cannabis and Mo NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) are also backing the petition, for which 170,000 signatures are needed to get the issue on the ballot.
"Petitioners will be showing up in the area in the next couple of weeks," Halbin said.
Markum said her family is prepared to move to a legal state to ensure her son has access to the plant that is helping him.
"Like any parent, we want that quality of life for him," she said.
For Barry County parents of children with intractable epilepsy, ask your neurologist about hemp oil cards.