Parents see source of hope in Alabama’s new medical marijuana law


Cristi Cain of Millbrook came to the Alabama State House last year to speak in favor of a bill to legalize medical marijuana, wearing with a pin with photos of her son, Hardy.

Cain was back in Montgomery on Thursday, along with Hardy and her husband John. They posed in a group with Gov. Kay Ivey for a ceremonial signing of the medical marijuana legislation at the Capitol.

Lawmakers passed the bill in May to make Alabama the 37th state to legalize cannabis products for medical uses.

Hardy Cain, 10, has a rare chromosomal condition called tetrasomy 18P. It causes a variety of problems, including epilepsy. Cain said the family has tried everything to help Hardy since he was diagnosed at age 3, including strong prescription medicines, some of which were addictive. Those left Hardy lethargic but brought no relief, she said.

Cain said CBD oil has helped Hardy. The Legislature passed a bill called Leni’s Law in 2016 to allow the use of CBD oil. Cain said she believes there is a chance for Hardy to get more relief from another cannabis product allowed under the new law.

“He’s still having seizures every day,” Cain said. “They are not as intense as they were. They’re not as long as they were. But he’s still having seizures. So, our ultimate goal is to further reduce those as much as we can and give him a quality of life that he deserves.”

Cain said her research makes her optimistic about the potential benefits of THCA, another substance found in cannabis.”

“If we can get that I think he can get even closer to being seizure free,” Cain said.

“We want to give him every opportunity to succeed in life that we would give our other children,” Cain said. “Just because he has disabilities and epilepsy and whatever else, doesn’t mean that he doesn’t deserve to be able to live a happy and healthy life.”

Hardy was in a wheelchair Thursday because he is recovering from a broken leg. His mother said he is a happy child despite his health problems, which result from a condition that has been diagnosed in only a few hundred people worldwide.

“He’s very happy,” Cain said. And that’s why it’s important for us to keep fighting for him.”

Cristy Cain of Elmore County wears a button supporting Alabama’s medical cannabis bill and another button that she said shows how her son, Hardy, improved after being able to use CBD oil to treat his seizures. (Mike Cason/mcason@al.com)

The new law authorizes an intrastate system to regulate medical cannabis from the cultivation of the plants to the sales of products at licensed dispensaries at up to 12 locations around the state.

Doctors will be able to recommend medical marijuana products for chronic pain, nausea and weight loss from cancer and HIV/AIDS, depression, Crohn’s, Parkinson’s, epilepsy, autism, panic disorder, PTSD, sickle cell anemia, spasticity caused by certain diseases or a spinal cord injury, Tourette’s Syndrome, and terminal illnesses.

The bill’s sponsors, Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence, and Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison, were on hand for today’s ceremonial signing.

Also on hand was Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville, who sponsored a medical marijuana bill more than a decade ago after the death of her son from AIDs. The new law is called the “Darren Wesley ‘Ato’ Hall Compassion Act,” in recognition of him.

Also at today’s event was Dustin Chandler, who spearheaded passage of Carly’s Law in 2014. That bill authorized a UAB study on the use of cannabidiol to treat severe seizure disorders. It was named after Chandler’s daughter.

“The most important thing this is going to do is to give people hope that there’s other alternatives to the suffering people of Alabama,” Chandler said. “I think that is the number one thing. The reason why we pushed so hard is we knew there were people that could possibly get help. And I hope this just gives them some hope. There’s a lot of people that are desperate to find new treatments. And if their physician is willing to help them with it, then this gives them hope. So it’s really for the people that are suffering.”

Chandler helped develop the legislation. He said it was based on a bill in Tennessee. The Tennessee lawmaker who sponsored that legislation, Sen. Janice Bowling, also attended Thursday’s event. The bill has not yet passed in Tennessee.

Melson said he thinks medical cannabis products could be available in about a year.

The law sets up the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission to regulate the new industry and use of the products. The commission will have 14 members, appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor, legislative leaders, and others. Appointments will be subject to Senate confirmation.

The law says the initial members must be appointed by July 1.



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