DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – On Thursday a six-year-old girl in Central Texas became the first patient in the state to legally access medical marijuana. It happened two and half years after state lawmakers legalized it for patients with intractable epilepsy.
State Representative Stephanie Klick, from North Richland Hills, is widely credited with pushing through the current law, but she said she wasn’t always in favor of medical marijuana. “Initially I was very skeptical.” Klick credits a seven-year-old girl from Rockwall with helping change her mind.
Elissa Howard has around 30 seizures a day. “I can’t even really find a word to describe how helpless and hopeless that feels,” said her mother, Lynne. “Every single day it can strike at any point and we are just constantly on edge about that.”
Searching for a solution, Elissa’s parents looked into medical marijuana and tried a CBD oil derived from cannabis. Lynne said the change happened quickly. “Shockingly, she immediately was almost seizure free.”
The oil proved to be successful for three months, after which the seizures returned. The experience, though, left the couple hopeful the right form of medical marijuana could help control Elissa’s condition.
Along with other families, the Howard family lobbied state legislators. Elissa’s father, Elliott, said, “What we’re pushing for is a very highly regulated form of medical marijuana.”
As it turns out Representative Klick knew Elissa’s grandmother. When she heard cannabis could help, she started doing research and looking at medical marijuana in a very different light. “I knew they were not drug abusers,” she said. “I personalized it.”
Rep. Klick succeeded in passing the law that created the state’s Compassionate Use Registry, through which Thursday’s sale to an epilepsy patient close in age to Elissa occurred. “Today is a huge victory in my mind,” said Lynne.
Now in a clinical trial for another drug, Elissa isn’t yet enrolled in the registry she helped inspire. Her parents say she may be soon and they’re happy to know her story made a difference. “We’re very proud to be a part of it, but we’re a very small part of it,” said Lynne.
The CBD oil the Howard’s previously tried has low enough levels of THC, marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, to qualify as hemp and it is unregulated. The cannabis oil now being sold in Texas is highly regulated and has a slightly higher level of THC. It’s only available for patients with intractable epilepsy, which is one reason many advocates remain highly critical of the state’s medical marijuana law.
Seventeen doctors statewide are now registered with the state to prescribe cannabis, including two in North Texas. Click here to see the full list of doctors.
Thursday’s sale was made by Knox Medical, the first company licensed to dispense cannabis in Texas. A second company, Compassionate Cultivation, expects to begin making sales next week.