Illinois has finally given the go signal for children with epilepsy to use medical marijuana for treating their condition following the approval of the House to expand the state's medical pot law to include minors with epilepsy.
On Wednesday, the Illinois House approved Senate Bill 2636, which proposed to add epilepsy to the list of treatable diseases that are included in the state's medical marijuana pilot program and which would allow epileptic patients below 18 years old to use the oil from the cannabis plant to treat their condition.
Prior to the decision of the house to give epileptic children access to medical marijuana, only residents of Illinois who are at least 18 years old can use marijuana for medical purposes. The bill was approved by the members of the House with a vote of 98-18. Several lawmakers who were initially against the marijuana law also supported the legislation.
Those opposed to the bill contend that this could expose children to marijuana. Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, who sponsored the bill, however, said that the legislation would help many children who suffer from epilepsy.
"These people are not interested in getting high. These are folks that are interested in alleviating their seizures," Lang said.
The state's senate has already approved the bill earlier this year but due to amendments that would prevent children from smoking and buying medical marijuana, the bill will go back to the senate for review.
Although the potent use of cannabis as treatment for epilepsy remains a subject of debate, parents of epileptic children who push for the medical use of marijuana claim that the oil from the plant can help reduce seizures. Experts also find the effect of marijuana on epileptic children promising.
Edward Maa, from the Comprehensive Epilepsy Program at Denver Health in Colorado, cited one case of a child with Dravet syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy whose seizures were reduced from 50 convulsion a day to as little as two per month after he was given a strain of cannabis that is high in Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to supplement his antiepileptic drugs.
Maria Roberta Cilio, from the Pediatric Epilepsy of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Benioff Children's Hospital , however, said that although there is a critical need for new therapies for epilepsy, it is crucial that the safety and efficacy of medical marijuana be thoroughly investigated.