The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


March 29, 2014

Highest chiefs visit teen over med pot issue

TURBOTVILLE — Pennsylvania’s physician general and secretary of health paid a visit this month to a Turbotville mother whose case for medical marijuana to help her seizure-burdened son continues to gain statewide attention.

Physician General Dr. Carrie DeLone and Health Secretary Michael Wolf made the 75-mile trek from Harrisburg to spare Cristy Harding from trying to travel with her son, Jason, whom they wished to meet, Harding said.

DeLone wrote Harding in January that she wanted to meet the Turbotville family to discuss how medical marijuana could benefit Jason, 13, who has as many as 60 grand mal seizures per day.

They met Jason for a while before he went to school that day, Harding said, giving her about an hour with the high-level pair to discuss how medical marijuana — specifically the compound cannabidiol — could bring great relief to children like Jason with seizure disorders without the side effects of conventional medication.

DeLone and Wolf are gathering information from parents like Harding to report to Gov. Tom Corbett, who has a long stand against legalizing marijuana in any form in Pennsylvania.

“They wanted to know Jason’s story, how it affects our lives,” Harding said. “They reviewed his medicine and all horrible side effects.”

For instance, Jason takes Depakote, used to treat seizure disorders but with a potential for liver toxicity. He’s also on Clonazepam, a benzodiazepine drug with an anticonvulsant effect but that is also addictive.

Harding gave the pair about 10 letters of support — nine from emergency room physicians with whom she works who said cannabidiol is the next viable option for Jason, and one from Jason’s family doctor who recently voiced his support of it. All the letters state they disagree with the Pennsylvania Medical Society’s stand against medical marijuana.

Harding also shared a short video, taken with an iPhone, of Jason in severe respiratory distress to show the urgency of his situation.

“After a seizure, he sometimes stops breathing,” Harding said. “I showed it to them so they know this is no joke. This is serious. He does have a potential to die.”

Harding said she told DeLone and Wolf she doesn’t agree that medical marijuana needs U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval before it can be used in Pennsylvania. That has been one of Corbett’s contentions and one to which assorted state legislators have adhered.

“This is an old drug. We already know what it does to people,” Harding said.

Some Pennsylvania families with seizure-disorder children are leaving the state for others, particularly Colorado, were medical marijuana is legal and their children can get relief.

Later this week, state Sen. John Gordner R-27, of Berwick, and state Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver, R-108, Sunbury, will meet with Harding, two physicians and a home health-care nurse for more discussion about medical marijuana, Harding said. The meeting is a follow-up to previous meetings, she said; both legislators asked to talk to medical professionals and others about medical marijuana.

Gordner favors the cannabidiol to help children such as Jason; Culver remains undecided.

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