ANNAPOLIS — A Frederick mother of twins with life-threatening seizures on Friday urged Maryland lawmakers to enable the medical marijuana treatments that have helped control epilepsy for children outside the state.
Shannon Moore said she's not sure whether marijuana would ease the seizures experienced by her 3-year-old sons, Nicolas and Byron Deliyannis.
"But I know that it will help many children," she said.
Moore spoke to a panel of state delegates Friday in support of two bills that could provide access to treatments now off-limits to her and other parents. Delegate Cheryl Glenn, who sponsored one of the proposals, testified that 20 states and the District of Columbia already have medical marijuana programs.
"We're going to get a bill passed this year on behalf of the patients and caregivers, those who are suffering and dying needlessly," said Glenn, D-Baltimore City, in a news conference before the House Health and Government Operations Committee took up her proposal.
Maryland lawmakers last year passed a bill that allowed patients to obtain marijuana through academic medical centers. But so far, none of the academic centers has established a medical marijuana program, so there is still no legal pathway to the treatment.
Paige Figi, of Colorado, whose family was featured in a CNN documentary about medical marijuana, also testified before the committee Friday. Figi's daughter, Charlotte, was born with Dravet syndrome, a condition that caused her to experience about 300 seizures a week until she began taking concentrated marijuana oil. With the medical marijuana treatment, Charlotte, 7, only has a few seizures each month.
Figi urged lawmakers not to be deterred by fears that medical marijuana would act as a gateway to other drugs. In fact, she said it worked the other way for her family.
"This was actually an exit drug for us," Figi said, adding that Charlotte has been able to discontinue her other medication.
With the bills sponsored by Glenn and Delegate Dan Morhaim, D-Baltimore County, patients could work with physicians to receive medical marijuana. Both pieces of legislation lay out special processes for allowing children to receive medical marijuana treatments.
Glenn's proposal also involves issuing identification cards that would protect qualifying patients or their caregivers from criminal or civil penalties related to marijuana possession. Glenn is also seeking to establish independent laboratories to test marijuana for concentration of active ingredients and the presence of pesticides or fungus.
The bills received support from Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who said they would "ensure that Maryland has a responsible, safe, and functioning medical marijuana program."
Glenn and Morhaim said they are working together to resolve the differences between their bills.
Though Moore supported the bills, she said she disagrees with a provision that would cap at five the number of licensed marijuana growers in the state. A larger number of growers would create competition that could drive down prices, she argued.
Follow Bethany Rodgers on Twitter: @BethRodgersFNP.