Bill would allow use of cannabis oil to treat seizures

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Earlier this year, Kentucky lawmakers passed a bill allowing the limited medical use of cannabis oil.

But the research, so far, has gone nowhere.

Doctors want to find out if cannabis is snake oil, a miracle cure or something in-between, but good intentions have been stonewalled by federal regulations.

Stephanie De Gregorio's son, Alex, suffers from autism and epilepsy.

The epilepsy causes what are called petit mal seizures - brief losses of consciousness - that Stephanie says have hindered his development.

"He went from being a high-functioning autistic child at three to severely autistic and back in a diaper at six," said De Gregorio.

Stephanie herself is battling an aggressive form of breast cancer.

But she's done her own research, and is convinced that cannabis oil - a non-intoxicating extract of marijuana - can benefit both her and her son.

"To be able to, instead of regress, to advance. That would just be a mother's dream," she said.

But right now, it's a dream denied.

The Kentucky General Assembly did approve research into cannabis - or CBD oil - at the University of Louisville and University of Kentucky hospitals.

But since the federal government considers it a controlled substance, doctors have been unable to get supplies to begin trials.

"You can't just go to the pharmacy and give them your doctor's prescription for CBD and have them fill it. It's a lot more complicated than a lot of people thought about," said Dr. Karen Skjei, a pediatric neurologist at the U of L Medical School and Director of the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit.

Lawmakers had hoped to see results from cannabis oil research by this fall. But it's high unlikely that trials can even begin by then.

Kentucky's fledgling hemp industry might be a short-term solution - if the proper strain can be developed.

"A strain of hemp that has a high enough concentration of CBD that it would be a good representation of the efficacy of the drug in order to use it on our patients," said Skjei.

Meantime, Stephanie is part of a grassroots campaign to have CBD oil reclassified and made more available for people like her and her son.

"We think our children will take this across the end zone because their story is so compelling, and there's evidence this substance helps them," she said.

And researchers would like to get solid answers.

"We need to determine, is it something that's actually going to help them, and is it safe," said Skjei.

Skjei says it could be a year before all the "i's" are dotted and the "t's" crossed, and research trials can begin.

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