Deal told the media this week he had been touched by families who fought unsuccessfully to legalize an oil form of the drug during the 2014 legislative session, and he planned to work with agency heads in the state to search for a solution.
While some parents in Cherokee County see promise in those statements, they aren’t counting on the outcome.
“I want to see action behind the words,” said Ball Ground mother Wendi Scheck, whose 4-year-old son, Hudson, has seizures. “It would be so meaningful and monumental for us if he will do that. It would be wonderful. I’d go right down there tomorrow if he said ‘I’ll meet you.’”
Scheck and parents from around the state had been lobbying lawmakers to allow the use of the oil form of marijuana to help their children with chronic seizures. The oil is non-psychoactive, meaning it doesn’t intoxicate the user.
“We know it works,” Scheck said, citing families who have gone to Colorado to try the drug and seen success. “We know it can be helpful. Now, we’re having to wait another year for the chance.”
Originally, the bill carried by Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) would have allowed the oil to be used in clinical trials at academic medical institutions for chronic seizure patients.
By the end of the session, the bill had been weakened to only decriminalize possession of the oil in Georgia, which some parents reported was a disappointment but still an improvement. The bill was also attached in the Senate to another measure ensuring insurance coverage for autistic children under the age of 6.
When the House and Senate deadlocked over which version of the bill should pass and nothing got done, the families were devastated, Holly Springs mother Corey Lowe said.
“One of the moms said she felt like someone died, because so many people were coming out saying ‘I’m sorry,’” said Lowe, whose daughter, Victoria, 12, has had debilitating seizures her entire life.
Since the end of the session last Thursday, Lowe said many lawmakers had expressed their apologies for failing to pass the bill after it received widespread support, with versions passing the House and Senate easily.
“There’s been an overwhelming amount of support from the representatives apologizing,” said Lowe, who was saddened to tears after the session ended. “A lot of people came out of the woodwork saying, ‘This is wrong.’”
Lowe said she felt hope after Deal’s statements, though she wanted to see what he would actually do.
“Part of me would say, ‘He’s just being an average politician trying to save face,’” she said. “But I think that it would look worse if he were to put this out there and do nothing. I’d be very surprised if he made a public statement wanting to help us and did nothing.”
Scheck said the governor needs to make sure to meet with parents and hear their stories.
“It’s difficult for us, because we’ve got children dying from seizures,” she said. “We’re willing to do whatever it takes. We’d love to work with him and have this pass.”
Whatever Deal does, Lowe and Scheck said they and other parents aren’t giving up their fight.
Lowe has recently partnered with a father in Alabama to form the Southeast Coalition for Medical Cannabis Research. They hope the group will become populated by families all over the South, so their sights can be set on the federal government to allow the drug nationwide.
The group will focus on the benefits of medical marijuana for many conditions besides seizures, Lowe said.
“It’s not just for seizures because when you look at this research, it can help kids with autism. It can help so much more,” she said.