We are parents of children with seizure disorders. Some of us have babies. Some of us have school-age children. Some of us have children that are now adults themselves.   While each of our situations is unique, we all have one thing in common – our children suffer from seizures and have tried numerous pharmaceutical medications with varying levels of success. For most of our kids, none of these medications are providing any relief. Even if the medications help to reduce the number of severity of the seizures, the side effects are terrible and some of these meds are very dangerous when used long-term.

This isn’t just about children. This isn’t just about stopping seizures.   There are so many Georgia citizens of all ages that are suffering needlessly every day when there is a treatment that has such amazing potential to provide relief. Georgia needs to allow all of its citizens the ability to have the best quality of life possible.

Several years ago we started hearing parents in other states sharing about how medical cannabis was providing relief to their children with seizures. Then in 2013 the concept of using CBD oil as a treatment for seizures became more widely known when CNN aired a documentary called “Weed” by Dr. Sanjay Gupta. As our frustration with the lack of access to this treatment in Georgia grew, we decided it was time to start pushing for change in Georgia so that we could have access to this medicine. A group of parents started working together in late 2013 with plans to start reaching out to our state legislators and to educate the public. One of these parents was Janea Cox, mom to 4-year old Haleigh. When Janea contacted her state representative to talk to him about why Haleigh needs medical cannabis as a treatment option, he actually went to the hospital to meet with them in person. State Representative Allen Peake was so touched by Haleigh that he decided he needed to do something. He began working with several families and some of his colleagues in the House and just a few short weeks later, HB885, also known as “Haleigh’s Hope Act”, was introduced into the Georgia House of Representatives.
Our overall goal is to get the right medicine to the right people – no matter the strain of cannabis, no matter the age of the patient, no matter the condition of the patient. HB885 began as a bill to decriminalize medical cannabis and allow Georgia universities to do research on the benefits to patients. Throughout the legislative session, the bill took many forms as it maneuvered through the political process – limits on THC, different growing provisions, etc. The final version of the bill would have simply provided decriminalization for a high-CBD, low-THC form of cannabis. Even though that potential law would have not provided a source for the medicine, the bill would have been a huge acknowledgement that Georgia is willing to work towards providing a solution. Unfortunately, this final version of the bill got caught up in political games as the Senate used its popularity to try to push through one of their own bills which was lacking support in the House, resulting in both bills dying as the legislative clock ran out. Several of our families were in the Senate chamber at midnight on the final night of session. We watched as the legislators were throwing paper in the air and celebrating all the great work they had done during the 2014 session while we were left heartbroken that they couldn’t put aside their differences and allow a final vote to help our children, some of whom may not make it the 2015 session.
During the next legislative session in 2015, we will continue to work towards getting a workable bill passed. Remembering that the total votes on HB885 (and its remnants) were 393-6 across both chambers, we plan to use that popularity to pass a bill that works for everyone, including provisions for growth and distribution within our state.