The Senate Judiciary Committee met Wednesday in a room filled to the brim with desperate families and ailing children. The contingent was on hand to hear the committee discuss SB115 from Sen. Paul Sanford (R-Huntsville), which would decriminalize possession of the seizure-reducing drug cannabidiol (CBD). The bill is the Senate version of HB61 from Rep. Mike Ball.
Ball brought forth the legislation, also known as “Leni’s Law,” after the previously passed “Carly’s Law” left many needy children out of the CBD studies. Ball’s legislation is named for Leni Young, a 4-year-old Alabama girl whose family was forced to move to Oregon to gain access to the medicine after she was excluded from the CBD study.
According to Amy Young, Leni’s mother, access to the marijuana-derived medication has allowed Leni to improve by leaps and bounds. The little girl is now verbal and able to sit on her own, two things she was not able to do before moving across the country.
Ten minutes after the meeting was set to begin, the contingent was told to move to the seventh floor.
Sanford introduced the legislation, referencing Leni and the failures of “Carly’s Law” to include more families.
“Basically, an Alabama family has turned into refugees,” Sanford said. “I believe government is basically standing in the way right now.”
Sanford said the new law would provided families with an “affirmative defense” against prosecution for possession of the medicinal oil.
“These parents are not criminals,” Sanford said. “They’re trying to help their children.”
Despite a public hearing being scheduled and there being no plans for a vote on the bill, Sen. Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) immediately called for a vote on the legislation.
“We’re talking about the lives of children,” Singleton said, noting his disdain for opponents of the measure. “I think we need to go and vote on this bill and get it out of committee and give these children what they need.”
Committee chairman Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) noted Singleton’s suggestion, but added that each side has a right to plead its case.
One of the opponents was Dr. Roxanne Travelute, president of the Jefferson County Medical Society. Travelute contended that the bill’s allowance of CBD oil containing as much as 3-percent THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana, would cause addiction and neurological disorders, as well as widespread use for illnesses the drug was not designed to treat.
Another opponent was Dr. Shannon Murphy, speaking on behalf of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), who opposed the bill on the basis that CBD oil attained by parents may not be safe for patients.
“We all sympathize greatly with these families,” Murphy said. “But as physicians, our Hippocratic Oath requires that we first do no harm.”
Dr. Gina Dawson spoke in favor of the bill, saying that many of the claims made by opponents are patently false. Dawson noted that the AAP opposes legalization but has said exceptions should be made for “compassionate use.” She cited drugabuse.gov, which says that abuse of CBD oil is almost nonexistent, and remarked that the Epilepsy Foundation has called for legislation providing access to CBD oil to be passed.
Dawson also noted that CBD oil is expensive and has no street value. Parents would willingly be on the hook for the cost of the medicine, but drug dealers would not be interested in a high-cost, low-potency drug for sale on the black market.
Another proponent, Joe Church, noted that the ingredients in Tylenol or Ibuprofen are more dangerous than CBD oil, as are the mind-numbing drugs these children must take every day. He also alleged that much of the opposition to Leni’s Law comes from GW Pharmaceuticals, which has $1.1 billion invested in its stranglehold over the manufacturing of the oil.
The committee is scheduled to take the legislation up again after spring break.