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February 12, 2014

Cannabis hearing: Hundreds head to state Capitol to support legalizing medical marijuana

OKLAHOMA CITY — Testimony at a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Select Agencies hearing on medical cannabis drew a crowd of hundreds of people to the state Capitol building Wednesday — some to support the use of cannabis and others to support legalization of marijuana.

As the hearing on medical use of cannabidiol took place on the fourth floor, a demonstration in favor of legalizing marijuana took place outside in front of the Capitol.

In the hearing room itself and two overflow rooms, more than 100 observers listened raptly to parents and grandparents of children with seizure disorders talk about the difference cannabidiol has made for their child, or what it as been like to care for a child with Dravet syndrome, a catastrophic form of epilepsy. The hearing was streamed into two other rooms in the Capitol, where additional people gathered to listen.

Listeners often wiped tears or openly cried as they listened to Perry resident Marty Piel talk about his granddaughter Zoey’s struggles against seizures and the ordeal the family has gone through, and Virginia Spencer, a mother of five and wife of an Air Force staff sergeant stationed at Tinker Air Force Base, talk about her 9-year-old daughter, Avagrace, being in hospice care because of her seizures.

“She’s had approximately 3,000 seizures in the past three months,” Spencer said.

Zoey’s mother, Mallory Johnson, moved in September to Colorado so Zoey, 6, could be treated with cannabidiol, an oil tincture made from cannabis extract.

“After her first dosage in Colorado Springs, she slept through the night for the first night,” Piel said “A year ago, I might not have been a supporter. I’m a conservative in a conservative state.”

The crowd gathered for the hearing included other parents of children with severe seizure disorders. One child, Aiden Dunaway, sat in a wheelchair with a sign reading, “I have seizures every day.” His mother, Cynthia Dunaway, brought him from their home in Purcell.

Among those who came to support the use of medical cannabis were two eastern Oklahoma police officers, whose colleague’s child has moved to Colorado Springs to be able to get cannabidiol.

Josh Stanley, who developed strains of hemp plants high in cannabidiol, from which Zoey’s medication is made, said the average rate of reduction of seizure activity among those who get the treatment is 88 percent.

“The children do not have to up their dose,” Stanley said. “Still, they remain 99 percent seizure free.”

Stanley said epilepsy is not the only disorder that can be improved with the use of cannabidiol. Among the other disorders that respond to cannabidiol treatment is diabetes, he said.

“This is not an issue of right or wrong,” Stanley said. “This is an issue of compassion. Is it so hard for us to admit that we were wrong?”

Mark Rosenfeld, cannabidiol researcher and founder and CEO of ISA Scientific, said his research has shown cannabidiol has therapeutic potential in treatment of heart attacks, pain, diabetes, atherosclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, cancer and epilepsy.

The hearing was arranged by Enid resident Seth Stambaugh, a medical technician, and state Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid, chairman of the subcommittee.

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