Cannabis oil proposal draws praise and criticism in TN
Cannabis oil. WBIR photo
KNOXVILLE, TN (WBIR) -
Cameron Bush, 2, crawls around his living room floor, smiling and occasionally spouting a laugh.
Those are the good times his parents want to remember.
"He had about a year of uncontrollable seizures, tons and tons of seizures," his mother Sandy said.
After attempts to control these infantile spasms with a cocktail of different drugs, mom believes the solution could be a liquid currently illegal in Tennessee -- cannabis oil.
"Would take it like any other liquid medication," Sandy said. "People hear the term 'marijuana' or 'cannabis,' they may a knee-jerk reaction to it. Maybe not understanding what it can be used for."
Currently ten states allow cannabis oil to treat infantile seizures. Tennessee's neighbor, Virginia, is also currently proposing the option.
"Epilepsy in general, with the epilepsy (Cameron) has, you never know when they'll come back and when they come back," she said. "You don't know if the medicine he's on is going to work, if something else works."
Lawmakers are listening to stories, like the Bush's. Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) introduced HB 197 that would allow cannabis oil -- with less than 0.9-percent of THC, but it has large doses of cannabidiol or CBD. Rep. Faison said CBD controls the seizures.
"A year ago, a Vanderbilt professor came to my office and was telling my about his own son that's had intractable seizures," the representative said. "He was having 200 seizures a day. After they gave him this cannabidiol oil, it dropped him down to one or two seizures a day. That intrigued me a Vanderbilt professor was telling me this."
Knoxville senator Becky Duncan-Massey is the sponsor for the Senate bill.
"With the TBI, with the Department of Safety, with the Department of Health, and the Department of Mental Health. All of these departments have become neutral - that's a huge deal," Faison said.
However, there are some who remain skeptical.
"What you have to look at is how do you determine that .9-percent is not detrimental?" said Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch. "That's what we're saying; you know there's no studies that has been done so let's get the proper study."
He told 10News he fears the low regulation and enforcement could lead to questioning what is medication and what is a narcotic.
"The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation does not have the capability to test the percentage of cannabis oil," Chief Rausch added. "We don't know what the levels of oil are that's being brought in."
Rep. Faison stressed this is not medical marijuana and the bottle must be labeled by the manufacturer.
"This has nothing to do with marijuana," the lawmaker said.
Families in Knoxville will watch Nashville with hope the bill will pass.
In time, they believe it will happen -- but time is what they're fighting too.
"I know there is a lot of research that does need to be done, and I'm all for that - I want to see that but I don't think we have time to wait," mother Sandy said.