Family pushes to legalize form of marijuana for epilepsy relief

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - State lawmakers will soon be reviewing a bill that aims to legalize the use of certain strain of marijuana, strictly for medicinal purposes.

State Senator Tom Davis is sponsoring the S1035. He tells Live 5 he was inspired by the story of a young Charleston girl who could greatly benefit from it.

Mary Louise Swing suffers from dangerous, debilitating seizures. Her grandmother, Harriett Hilton, says the 6-year-old has been dealing with some form of them since she was just 6 months old.

"She doesn't talk, she cannot walk without being held because of the seizures," said Hilton.

Hilton says life for her granddaughter is a constant struggle and the medications she's taking aren't doing enough.

"Without any medications up to 200 seizures an hour, and even with the medications she'll have anywhere between 20 and 60," said Hilton.

The family is now pushing to legalize an alternative medicine, a cannabis compound known as CBD. The oil contains no THC, which is the psychoactive ingredient that can make you feel high. A small dose of CBD, commonly mixed with food, can have calming effects. It's something Hilton says Mary Louise is in desperate need of.

"Take away all of her seizures, that would be my hope," said Hilton. "But if not, we feel like it has a really good chance of reducing them far far more than we've been able to do with any other current legal, on the market, medicines."

Now, they've got the support of a Senator Davis, who has sponsored the bill to legalize the use of CBD. His bill laws out that it can only be used when prescribed by a physician and for the sole purpose of relieving debilitating conditions.

"If I had a daughter that was 6 years old and had epileptic seizures that were up to 100 an hour, I would move heaven and earth to find relief," said Davis.

Davis says making sure his fellow lawmakers fully understand the cannabis compound is one of their biggest hurdles.

"One of our jobs as lawmakers, I think, is to explain exactly what CBD oil is," said Davis.

"Do your research, understand that this is non-hallucinogen, non-psychoactive and that it is a last hope for children that are suffering hundreds of seizures a day, or even an hour," said Hilton.

Hilton says that if CBD isn't legalized in South Carolina, her family may consider moving to another state that has legalized it. Their main priority is getting Mary Louise the treatment they feel she needs.

"It's immoral if we don't allow it," said Davis.

Davis' bill is set to be heard in the Senate's Medical Affairs Subcommittee March 13. If it passes, it goes to the full Medical Affairs Committee and then to the full Senate. However, they've got to act fast if they want to get the legislation through to the House this year.

So far, Davis' bill is receiving bipartisan support. Senator Lindsey Graham, who is strongly against legalizing recreational marijuana, says he fully supports legalizing CBD for medical purposes.

Meanwhile, Thursday morning there's a hearing in the House on another medical marijuana related bill. Representatives Horne, Erickson and Gilliard are sponsoring a bill.

It aims to make it legal for the Department of Health and Environmental control to administer a therapeutic research program for medical marijuana. Under the study it would include allow patients, approved by the Food and Drug Administration, to legally use medical marijuana that does include THC.

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