Like much of the Deep South, Alabama has historically been resistant to marijuana, with some of the strictest state laws in the nation. However, in recent years, Alabama’s legislature has shown a willingness to understand medical cannabis and make certain products available for specific cases – particularly children with severe conditions – through ‘CBD-only’ legislation.
There remains opposition, but Governor Robert Bentley fought hard to improve access to medical marijuana until his resignation in 2017.
Alabama’s growing acceptance of medical marijuana
Alabama’s first foray into medical marijuana legislation came in 2014 with ‘Carly’s Law’, a basic CBD law which permitted the University of Alabama to conduct exclusive research on CBD oil. This came from grassroots pressure – parents of children with debilitating epileptic seizures were persistent in making the CBD case to state lawmakers. After UAB’s positive findings, an even bigger wave of support followed calling for access to CBD oil.
Next came ‘Leni’s Law’, which offered CBD oil access to a limited number of participants as part of another research program carried out by UAB. Initially, 51 patients were part of the study, with just over half reporting a drop in seizures (between 32 and 45 percent) from CBD oil. Since then, the program has increased to 95 participants. Here are the stories of a few of these Alabama kids.
Ethan Goodridge has faced constant battles throughout his first 17 years. Ethan has autism and an extra Y chromosome which leads to bouts of seizures. His mother Brandi explains that Ethan may not experience a single seizure for up to two months, but that when they come, they do so in clumps – from 20 to 70 and sometimes even more in a week. Ethan’s mood swings and general withdrawal are usually a signal for upcoming seizures.
However, since being treated with CBD oil, he has enjoyed a huge drop in seizures – his first bout after beginning the program consisted of just four in total, with just three next time around. The reduction has made Ethan happier, more sociable and has improved his ability to learn. Brandi hopes that her son will soon be able to stop taking prescription anti-seizure meds and just use CBD oil, which has its own anticonvulsant properties.
Gabriel Pass has had schizencephaly since birth. The condition, which leaves cleft in the brain, has left Gabriel blind, often confined to a wheelchair and afflicted with seizures since the age of 11 months. The seizures cause Gabriel’s muscles to stiffen, which often leads to vomiting, and they have significantly affected his overall development. Gabriel experiences 10 to 20 of these severe seizures every day.
His mother, Robin, explained that the seizures are disrupting and effectively wipe Gabriel out, preventing his brain from functioning normally and making learning impossible. However, Robin and Gabriel’s father Frank have fought tirelessly to find medication that can genuinely help, and their journey eventually led them to CBD oil.
Surely Gabriel’s parents could never have guessed that becoming well-versed in marijuana would be crucial to helping their son, but that’s exactly what happened!
CBD oil has worked wonders on Gabriel, reducing his seizures by around 90 percent to just one or two per day on average. Furthermore, he has been able to stop taking many of the sleep-inducing medicines he was previously on. He can now eat with a spoon, speak with his own voice and even make an effort to walk. Gabriel loves it when his older sisters read stories to him, and he doesn’t even suffer myoclonic jerks (twitches) that he once did.
Gabriel’s quality of life has been transformed immeasurably by CBD oil, bringing unprecedented joy to his loving family and real hope for the future.
Leni Young has serious brain damage after suffering a stroke before birth. Seizures started occurring at just eight months, and doctors gave a gloomy prognosis, telling parents Amy and Wayne that making her comfortable was all that could be done for her. Thankfully, Leni’s parents refused to stop fighting for their daughter, with their battle finally bringing them to medical marijuana.
However, despite Leni even having a law named after her in Alabama, that law doesn’t help Leni herself. She wasn’t able to get onto UAB’s Carly’s Law study, and had to move to cannabis-progressive Oregon for treatment. However, her parents continue to fight for Alabaman patients’ right to access medical marijuana products.
Moreover, ‘Leni’s Law’ wouldn’t be enough to help Leni anyway, with it only permitting oil with up to 3 percent THC. It makes Amy angry that being able to get treatment is “determined by people’s zip codes.”
But specially-made marijuana medicine in Oregon has helped Leni to become pretty much seizure-free. She has been able to stop taking one anti-seizure medicine, and has lower dosages with the other two. Leni can now focus, speak and control her limbs, allowing her to experience life in a whole new way.
Fighting the Medical Association of the State of Alabama’s opposition
Even with the growing evidence that medical marijuana and ‘Leni’s Law’ can help patients, the Medical Association of the State of Alabama is still not in favor.
MASA argues that medicine has to be evidence-based, and without extensive research and testing to guarantee the safety of such products for patients, there’s no way that they could approve them.
Until medical marijuana receives FDA approval, MASA says that they could not support the legalization or expansion of medical cannabis or cannabis extracts, whatever the process. Therefore, patients are lumped with “medically-approved” products, even though they clearly aren’t benefitting those who need CBD oil.
While Alabama’s legislature must be given some credit for at least attempting to start a medical marijuana conversation, there’s still a long way to go. After all, how free are people if they cannot even pick their own medicine?
What are your thoughts on CBD oil and the approach to such products in Alabama or your own state? Feel free to have your say in the comments.