JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Missouri residents with epilepsy that is not relieved by other treatments could use a cannabis extract under legislation given final approval Thursday after a state senator's passionate speech about his son.
Sen. Eric Schmitt said families in Missouri are moving their entire lives to get treatment for their children and that they should be able to get it in their home state. The lawmaker's 9-year-old son, Stephen, has intractable epilepsy and watched Thursday's debate from the Senate chamber with family.
"The sense of urgency is real for families that are making those decisions," said Schmitt, a Republican from St. Louis County.
Legislation passed by the Missouri Legislature would allow use of a "hemp extract" containing little of the chemical that causes marijuana users to feel high and larger amounts of a chemical called cannabidiol, or CBD. Patients or their parents would need a registration card that would be issued by the state health department to Missouri residents. CBD oil only would be available after a neurologist has determined a patient's epilepsy isn't responding to at least three treatment options.
The Department of Health and Senior Services would regulate distribution of the oil. Growers would need to be a nonprofit entity and be licensed. A maximum of two licenses could be issued.
Senators approved the legislation 32-0, and the House voted 136-12 to send it to Gov. Jay Nixon, who said Thursday he hasn't reviewed the measure but isn't philosophically opposed. The bill would take effect immediately.
Those voting against the legislation were Republicans.
"Has there been anything done to prove CBD oil is the magic bullet we have been waiting for?" said Rep. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan. "We could be making it worse for these individuals."
Supporters said CBD oil has been effective in controlling seizures. Missouri lawmakers heard from several people who said their children experience frequent seizures and either have been helped, or could be, by the cannabis extract. Some parents said they are looking to Colorado, where marijuana use is legal, to gain access to treatments.
Holli Brown said she moved from Kansas City to Colorado last July so that her 10-year-old daughter, Sydni, could use CBD oil for her seizures, which occurred as often as 125 times an hour.
Because of the seizures, Sydni had been unable to write her name, draw a picture or get dressed on her own. She's been using CBD oil for about six months now and has seen a 75 percent reduction in seizures, Brown said.
"Now she is asking questions again. She's skipping and hopping around my living room," Brown said. "Her is face is lighting up. She's coming back because of cannabis. ... She's getting her childhood back."
About a dozen states have considered legislation dealing with CBD oil, and measures have been signed into law in Wisconsin and Alabama.
The Missouri senator's son had an infantile spasm before turning 1. A later seizure lasted four hours and nearly prompted doctors to induce a coma. Stephen has seizures daily and maxed out on his medications.
The family cannot fly and checks to make sure an emergency room is nearby when traveling. Stephen sleeps in his parents' bedroom, and seizures that happen during the night disturb his sleep. Schmitt said when there is a seizure at night, all he can do is hold his son and tell him that he loves him.
"More than anything it's just kind of a fear; a fear that you live with that the next one could be that one that is the four-hour seizure or worse. So the promise of the CBD oil is real," Schmitt said.