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Families with young children with epilepsy urge Ohio officials to legalize medical marijuana

Published: Fri, December 20, 2013 @ 12:05 a.m.

Hagan, Schiavoni hear parents’ passionate pleas

By David Skolnick



Four local families with young children suffering from epileptic seizures urged state officials to pass legislation that would legalize medicinal marijuana to help treat their children’s medical condition.

Two of the families are moving early next month to Colorado. The use of oil from a strain of marijuana apparently has resulted in significant improvement to some children with epilepsy, according to an article in The Gazette, a Colorado Springs newspaper.

Hunter Shaffer of North Lima, 7-year-old son of Jeremy and Dana, has intractable epilepsy. He had his first seizure when he was 2, and has a seizure about every 10 seconds, his mother said Thursday.

The various medicines he’s taken have caused other health problems, and have left him with the mental capacity of a 3-year-old, Dana said.

“Hunter has been on numerous pharmaceutical drugs, has had a vagus nerve stimulator implanted without any success, and is not a viable candidate for surgery,” she said. “His body is deteriorating due to the pharmaceutical drugs. My son deserves a better quality of life. He deserves the chance to better control or stop his seizures.”

So the couple and their son are moving Jan. 2 to Colorado, leaving behind their family, friends, home and jobs.

“We want it legalized in Ohio,” Dana said. “These kids deserve a better quality of life. Let’s get this on the ballot next year.”

State Rep. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-58th, a longtime proponent of legalizing medical marijuana, and Ohio Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, D-33rd, had a roundtable discussion Thursday at the B&O Banquet Hall on Mahoning Avenue with local families who have children with epilepsy; Dr. Thomas E. Albani, a Canfield doctor; and John Pardee, president of Ohio Rights Group, which wants to get a medical marijuana initiative on the statewide ballot next year.

Hagan also said he will look at sponsoring a bill that would be more specific regarding the use of marijuana for certain medical use as well as seek funding for research on the impact oil taken from marijuana can have on those with epilepsy.

Hagan’s numerous efforts to legalize medical marijuana in the past have stalled in the state Legislature.

“If other people read stories about these kids and what medicinal marijuana can do for them, we can change people’s minds,” he said.

Schiavoni said he isn’t ready to commit to medical marijuana legislation, but the state needs to research its benefits.

“I never want Ohio to be a place where a guy with a headache can go someplace and get a bag of weed,” he said. “I want to look at specific conditions and specific medical issues.”

Opponents of medical marijuana have urged the Ohio Legislature to not legalize it for medical purposes, saying the drug is unreliable and filled with contaminants. They said at an event earlier this year at the Statehouse that legalizing marijuana is a bad idea and would allow widespread use of a drug that is unregulated.

The oil that is taken from marijuana doesn’t include delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol, known as THC, which causes people using pot to get “high,” Dr. Albani said.

Medical marijuana is legal in 20 states and the District of Columbia.

“It breaks your heart to understand there is treatment for these kids that can’t be used in Ohio,” Dr. Albani said. “Unfortunately, marijuana has a stigma attached to it,” but “medical marijuana is no different than any other drug.”

Amy and Jamie Houk and their son, Cameron, who turns 6 next week and has epilepsy, are moving to Colorado on Jan. 6.

“He’s on four medications and still has hundreds of seizures a day,” said Amy. “We consulted with doctors” all over the country and were told “the best option is to use medical marijuana. We’re leaving behind our families, our jobs — we’re leaving everything.”

The Houks live in New Castle, Pa., and have family in Youngstown.

“Our kid isn’t getting high,” Amy said. “He won’t be smoking it. It will be in liquid form. Hundreds of families are moving to states where marijuana use is legal.”


1michael1757(489 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

Maybe the families can get together,get a place together & support each other,plus neither with family out there,they'd at least have each other.

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2taxme(361 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

It's about time we as a country wake up. Harmless! I think we are probably the only country in the world that imprisons people for pot. How about putting more time into stopping drunks from killing innocent people and raising the cost of health car! Now that's a good idea!

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3southsidedave(5189 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

The world is headed toward calamity allowing the legalization of marijuana...drunks & drug addicts = more violence

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4taxme(361 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

Marijuana was never a problem before the very very dangerous drug alcohol became legal. Marijuana shouldn't even be labeled a drug. Of all the drugs, Heroin, crack, cocaine, alcohol, exstacy(sp), meth, which have to be manufactured. ALL of them are a manufactured drug. Man made so to speak. Pot grows natural from the earth. Does't kill people or doesn't come anywhere near causing death(personally I've never heard of a just pot related death. If there was alcohol was mixed in with it. Making pot illegal and alcohol legal has caused hundreds of thousand alcohol related deaths. Wake up Ohio. There is a need for medical marijuana and a demand for recreational use. Truth is marijuana if made legal won't hurt a thing. The people who will be smoking it will be the ones who are already smoking it. Period.

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5taxme(361 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

Common. I'm just one of OVER 50% of americans who have tried or do smoke it. Did you see what I said, OVER 50%. It's a loosing battle for the ignorant people who know nothing about marijuana. You know the ones that sit there getting drunk every night drinking their beers yet say no to a weed that's harmless.

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6chris9465(1 comment)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

I only signed up to respond to the 2 comments here before me....... talking to you commoncitizen and southsidedave........

Southsidedave..really? Has the government really brainwashed you that bad? I can tel you equate any drug or alcohol use to abuse......cannabis does not cause violence on any level.....except when the government kills people to stop it......educate yourself you sound like someone who once thought the world is flat......

Commoncitizen your a typical american not having the facts never stops them from forming the wrong opinion.....children die from dravet most don't live past 6 you want these children to wait for the DEA and FDA to approve trials before you'll save those suffering children with a non-toxic no side effect drug that is saving their lives now and letting them be children now? Because you have a bias against marijuana.......you might want to watch DR sanjay gupta CNN special on Dravet and the debilitating seizures before and after Charlotte Figi received her oil........if you watch that and still feel those children should all die waiting the 5 plus years for the FDA to approve the use of a non toxic substance fine.........and before you say it YES ITS A SCIENTIFIC FACT THE CANNABIS IS NON TOXIC

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7Kookoocon(1 comment)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

Listen to chris9465. He is informed unlike other people making comments. Shame on the government and big business trying to keep CBD oil from epileptics so they can make money off of dangerous synthetic drugs. Marijuana is the only drug that does not poison the body. It is non-toxic. CBD oil has no side effects other than good health. Shame on misinformed people preaching propaganda. Schedule I CBD is not a dangerous drug. Neither is it habit forming. Nor can it be abused. Shame on the government and shame on uninformed people spewing government propaganda. No one has died from marijuana overdose in 6,000 years plus. The only problem with cannabis is that it treats all know disease through a system called the endocanabinoid system. Doctors know very little about this large system that moderates many basic functions in mammals and in the human body. The government has know since the 70s that cannabinoids including CBD and THC kill cancer cells and fight cancer in many different pathways. A strong possible cure/treatment for cancer, a strong treatment for epilepsy, a strong treatment for Alzheimers, dementia, Hiv, Aids, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, Crohn's, migraines, chronic pain… etc legalize the plant already. People should do a little research before making dumb comments. DEA and FDA will never allow marijuana medicine without the people forcing the issue. That is where we are at today. Full legalization of a non-toxic plant only so the people can get the medicine they need. It is 10 fold safer recreation substitute to alcohol and tobacco. It is 10 fold safer substitute to opioids and other FDA approved drugs. Have you seen the commercials of all these nasty FDA approved drugs. The goal is for the big pharma to have each patient taking up to 30 different toxic pills per day. All in the name of money. In reality these people could take CBD and wipe out all those nasty side effect ridden synthetic garbage pills that people are being forced to take. Shame! Shame on the government and shame on big business and shame on people who do not do research! Educate yourself. Education is power. The majority of Americans are for legalization of recreational and medical marijuana. These people are more informed than the minority. The marijuana prohibitionists (minority) are on the side of big business, big government, big pharma and the drug cartels. The anti prohibitionists (majority) are on the side of nobel peace prize winners, on the side of democracy, on the right side. Do the research then decide the if you want the devils side or the righteous side of anti war on Americans. Say no to body cavity searches for cannabis. Say no to people being forced into rehab by the court system, say no to civil rights abuse, say no to people's lives being ruined by un-American policy, finally say no to the police beating, murdering, and harassing marijuana users.

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8taxme(361 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

And thats that! Period.

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