Va. families plead for medical marijuana for sick children

Virginia parents advocating medical marijuana for their sick children spent an emotional day in Richmond Thursday.

RICHMOND, Va. (WUSA9) -- Virginia parents advocating medical marijuana for their sick children spent an emotional day in Richmond Thursday.

Each of the families have heart breaking stories about their children in the grips of epilepsy, an illness that does not respond to legal medicine.

"I look to see if my daughter's lips are blue. I watch her when she sleeps. I look for the rise and fall of chest. At 14, that's not what we do," said Lisa Smith.

Moments before Lisa Smith's comments, her 14-year-old daughter had a seizure right in the hearing room in front of legislators. Smith told lawmakers that's what she deals with everyday.

"She had over 1,000 seizures last year alone," said Smith.

The families then came with their children, pleading for help. They want access to medical marijuana in the form of cannabis oil, because the legal drugs don't work.

Teresa Elder's son Tommy, 22, has suffered with seizures since he was six months old and has been on life support 38 times. Elder held up five-feet's length of bills totaling nearly $500,000 from 2014. While most of it was paid by insurance, Elder is responsible for $39,000.

After pharmaceuticals gave Jennifer Collins, 15, hallucinations and psychotic fits, with a doctors' urging, she and her mom moved to Colorado for the cannabis oil.

MORE: Va. lawmakers consider medical marijuana

"It's put in a syringe and its placed under my tongue and I just swallow it," said Jennifer. She says the medicine reduced her seizures from 300 to 10 a day.

"We chose to come back home, to the state we love and put faith in the lawmakers to give Jennifer the life she deserves," said Beth Collins, Jennifer's mother.

Dave Marsden's bill in the Senate and the House bill would legalize the use of two cannabis oils to control seizures.

"We are not looking to legalize marijuana," emphasized Albo. It's about helping these kids, he said. Albo explained that Virginia actually has a 1979 law on the books that legalized medical marijuana, but it requires a doctor writing a valid prescription. Federal law makes that illegal. Albo's bill would allow recommendations from doctors.

"We don't know the long term affects of marijuana. We do know the long term affects of uncontrolled seizures: cognitive decline and premature death." Lisa Smith pleaded with lawmakers to "please allow this to come out of a committee."

The Senate Education and Health Committee is set to vote on the bill on January 29. Marsden is optimistic the bill will be moved forward and be allowed a vote on the Senate floor. Albo's bill in the House is expected to face greater difficulty.


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