MODESTO — Parents of children who suffer from seizure disorders told harrowing stories of their debilitating effects in an appeal for help from Modesto City Council members at this weeks Safety and Communities Committee meeting.
They gave testimonials about a specific type of medical marijuana they say has been more effective than any pharmaceutical drug they have used to treat their childrens seizures, and they asked the three council members on the committee for help bringing its safe access to Modesto. The committee was divided.
Countless times, the parents have watched helplessly as their children struggle to breathe through seizures that have resulted in cognitive loss, behavioral issues and incontinence, they said. The side effects of the pharmaceutical drugs prescribed to the children are almost as bad, leaving them in a catatonic state.
I didnt pick medical marijuana; medical marijuana picked me, said Jason David of Modesto, whose son Jayden, 7, started having seizures as a result of Dravet syndrome when he was 4 months old.
David started administering a specific strain of marijuana in a tincture or oil form to Jayden in 2011. He has since seen a dramatic reduction in his seizure activity and weened him off 20 of the 22 prescription drugs he was using.
The marijuana has a high concentration of cannabidiol, or CBD, and less than 1 percent of THC, so it is nonpsychoactive. It is the CBD that some studies suggest greatly reduces seizure activity.
The Colorado nonprofit group Realm of Caring conducted one study of 11 children with seizure disorders. The group used concentrated cannabis oil from from plants with a high concentration of CBD and found a reduction in seizure activity from every patient. Eleven children is a very small study, but it is a legitimate study, said Dr. Kathryn Bolton, Jaydens pediatrician.
I met Jayden when he was on prescription medications and then saw him after hed been on CBD; I was amazed at how well he was doing, Bolton said. She said she does not support marijuana in general and discourages her adolescent patients from using it, but she said she views CBD as a true medicine and wants her patients to have safe access to it.
Two of the founders of Realm of Caring brothers Joel and Josh Stanley came from Colorado to speak at the meeting Wednesday and ask for support to open a lab in Modesto.
The Stanley brothers said that their Colorado lab is the only one of its kind and that while some growers who advertise online say they sell CBD marijuana, the ratios are inconsistent and unpredictable. We do not seek to move a dispensary to Modesto; we are a lab, said Josh Stanley. We are not proponents of the recreational craze ... what we are here to do is help these children and their families. We are the antithesis of what we have come to know as medical marijuana.
Joel Stanley said his organization is treating 200 pediatric epileptics, and 100 more are on the waiting list.
But Modesto Police Chief Galen Carroll said that it is not feasible for a city government to be responsible for the regulation of a medical marijuana lab and that current laws do not differentiate between different strains of marijuana.
Possessing and growing cannabis for medicinal use in California has conflicted with federal law since 1996, when it became legal under state Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act.
This is not a local issue at this point; this is a presentation for the state and federal government, Carroll said. Medical marijuana law, the way it is written right now, is a farce.
City Attorney Adam Lindgren added that concentration of any type of cannabis is illegal, whether it is for medical purposes or not and regardless of the levels of THC in the plant from which it is derived.
The argument was difficult for parents to swallow. I believe this is a win for everyone, said Realm of Caring Executive Director Heather Jackson. These families are out of time; they need lifesaving medicine now.
Her son Zaki averaged 250 seizures a day. He couldnt remember colors or family members names and had autistic tendencies. At times, he was immobile and couldnt swallow. Zaki started using CBD a year ago. I often say thats when I got to meet my child for the first time, Jackson said.
Council members heard stories like this for more than three hours but, ultimately, two of the three committee members said they couldnt support a CBD lab in Modesto. Councilman John Gunderson made a motion to draft letters asking for support from county and state elected officials, but it failed without a second.
I hear a lot of stories of what is going on and it is very emotional to see and I hear what you are saying. ... But for my Police Department, it needs it to be cut and dry, said Councilman Dave Lopez. He said he represents not just the people who attended the meeting but 210,000 other citizens in Modesto.
Councilman Dave Geer said he worried about the liability of approving such a business coming into town.