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Op-ed

While Maryland dallies on medical marijuana, children suffer

Parents helplessly watch the open, vacant unseeing eyes of their child, knowing inside their kid's brain an electrical firestorm rages. The seizure passes, and the immediate parental relief is tempered by hard experience: This is just a break until it happens again — and it always, always happens again.

Our 8-year-old daughter suffers from intractable epilepsy; none of the six prescribed pharmaceuticals that we have tried effectively control her seizures. Under the care of wonderful, watchful doctors, we've tried some of these in tandem with others, we've tried varying doses, and we've tried varying times to administer them. No luck. On the worst days, she still suffers more than 50 absence seizures. She is one of millions of people across the country with epilepsy, thousands of them right here in Maryland.

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Of course, we would gladly try anything that is safe and has a chance to work — like any parent, family member or caregiver would. For the moment however, we, along with our doctors, do not have the "anything" option in the state of Maryland.

We have researched other methods of treating epilepsy and have come to the conclusion that high CBD medical marijuana is a logical next step in our treatment options. In 2014, the Maryland General Assembly updated the Maryland medical marijuana laws and joined the now 23 other states in legalizing a comprehensive medical marijuana program. We were pleased. We would be able to get a safe, legal product for medical use, of course knowing through hard experience that there are no guarantees. At that time we were assured the process to develop and implement the necessary regulations to get the law off the ground would take 12 to 18 months, and that seemed reasonable to us.

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However, two full legislative sessions have passed in Annapolis, and still we wait, and our child and other epileptics do not have the "anything" option.

This wait is not due to a lack of interest from reputable businesspeople. We are pleased with the response to Maryland's medical cannabis regulations from experienced and respected companies like GTI Maryland, one of the applicants for the 15 licenses allowed for growers here. GTI currently operates two cultivation centers and one dispensary in Illinois and owns four licenses in Nevada, and is committed to providing a safe product from safe facilities. With that experience, GTI worked closely with Washington County officials in developing a shovel-ready plan to build a safe and secure cultivation facility in Hagerstown. Businesses are ready.

The Natalie LaPrade Medical Cannabis Commission has made strides to move forward the process to bring safe medical cannabis as a treatment option in the state of Maryland. But now that a new executive director has been appointed, the time to finish the job started in 2014 is long past. Families in Maryland are pleading with our elected officials and the commission to implement the medical marijuana program.

The electrical firestorms in our kid's brain, and in those of every other epileptic child in Maryland, loom every day. Thus, every day, we must have available all the tools to do anything — including medical cannabis — to stop the seizures.

Jenn and Chuck Porcari live with their children in Cheverly. They may be reached at chuckporcari@gmail.com.


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