Citizen Submission to Ohio Senate Town Hall on Medical Cannabis
Dear Senator Burke, Senator Yuko, and Members of the Ohio General Assembly
When considering the legalization of medical marijuana in Ohio, I ask you to please think about my seven-year-old daughter, Sophia. I ask you to think about what it's like for her to wake up at night crying out for her mom or dad because she's having a seizure; to find yourself walking around your room aimlessly in the middle of the night, shaking, saying random words or phrases from the day, like a bad waking dream; to be playing in the middle of the day and suddenly have to lie down because you're having "the busies" (words only an innocent child would use to describe the unimaginable feelings of a seizure).
Imagine what it's like to spend so many days at Children's Hospital getting CAT scans, EEGs, PET scans, MEG scans, sedation, anesthesia, over and over again that it no longer feels foreign. Imagine going so often that you're no longer even scared to get a "pinch" from the doctor. Think about what it's like for a young girl to take Keppra, Trileptol, Depakote, Klonapin, Dilantin, Vimpat, Fycompa, and so many other pharmaceuticals (often several at a time) over the past six years that you can't even remember all their names. They might work for a week or two, but then the seizures start right back up. Not to mention the side effects, some known and some that may not present themselves for years or even decades down the road. But even all of these “approved” medications, after nearly years of you suffering through them stoically, barely cut back on the seizures.
So imagine going back to Children's Hospital and having the neurologists and neurosurgeons there recommend that almost your entire right frontal lobe of your brain be taken out. After weeks of more testing, as the nurses take you from your parents' arms for surgery, you smile and fight back the tears, holding onto your favorite blanket. You're terrified and brave beyond belief at the same time. Your parents are too scared to tell you exactly what it is the doctors are going to do to you.
But the surgery goes well and – miraculously -- you're up and smiling and laughing 48 hours later because you are so determined and tough and full of life. You wear a hat for the whole summer because you are a little girl with her head shaved and a twelve-inch scar in the shape of a question mark across your skull. But you don't care because you're innocent and tough at the same time. And the seizures stop.... for six or seven weeks. But then they're back. Do you give up hope? No, you try more meds. You start kindergarten and you’re smart as a whip because kids' brains are so plastic that the left side took over for the right part that's missing.
But the seizures keep coming, sometimes better, sometimes worse. You miss school for more testing or because the seizures are keeping you up at night. And when you can go, a teacher has to hold your hand going up and down the stairs; and you can't play at recess because one could happen at any time.
So the doctors recommend a drastic step -- a second brain surgery (as if the first one weren't drastic enough). Again, the surgery seems to work at first; but this time only for a few weeks. You almost want to give up hope.
But, of course, you can't because it's the only thing keeping you going. The doctors recommend a vagus nerve stimulator, an electrical device implanted into your chest that sends electrical waves through a wire to your brain every five minutes. The surgery is a piece of cake compared to the others, but even under the best scenario, it only cuts down the seizures by 50%. And it does seem to help. A bit. For now.
But you still have the seizures in the middle of the night; the busies any time of the day. There's not much else we can do, the doctors inform you. Maybe something will come up. We're doing research, you know. Until then, they essentially tell you, you'll just have to live with it.
Now, imagine you are that little girl's father or mother. Imagine the pain you go through almost every day, watching your little girl suffer for no reason. But there's a plant that has been shown to drastically reduce or even eliminate seizures in children with epilepsy, children just like my daughter, Sophia. But it’s illegal to give it to her in this State. Why? I know the evidence about its efficacy has largely been anecdotal to this point, but that's because our government has essentially prevented all research on it by classifying it as a Schedule I substance against all scientific data to date.
Yes, medical marijuana may be used by some as a pretext to get high. But would you prevent your father, or wife, or daughter from getting potentially life-saving medicine because someone else could abuse it? Certainly not. And the sky is not exactly falling in those states where it’s legal.
And, yes, we may not know from a scientific perspective all of the side effects of using cannabis for a long period of time. But we know from thousands of years of recorded history that it's a lot less harmful than many of the other substances we allow ourselves to ingest in a free society. And I can certainly tell you that I would feel more comfortable giving my daughter marijuana (especially the high-CBD, low-THC varieties available where it’s legal and regulated) than giving her the veritable potpourri of psychotropic drugs she's taken so far under doctor’s orders -- many of which have long term effects that are surely more serious and about which we certainly know less about than a plant that's been around since the beginning of time.
And I would bet my life that any negative effects from ingesting a small amount of medical grade marijuana would be less harmful than the seizures my daughter continues to have despite every “accepted” cure we’ve tried.
Yes, we need more research, but my little girl can't wait for years of bureaucratic red tape to get the medicines she needs now! I'm not naive enough to believe that medical marijuana is a panacea for everything that ails us, but if it may help my daughter and others like her all across this state live a more normal, happy life, please explain to me why she can't have it. Or why her family should have to uproot, quit their jobs, and leave their loved ones to move halfway across the country (or, even more absurd, commit a crime!) to get my daughter the medicine that may save her life.
Please, I implore you, legalize medical marijuana in Ohio. If you met my daughter, Sophia, I know which way you would vote.
Scott Nazzarine (Sophia’s father)