Pubdate: Sun, 30 Mar 2014
Source: Macon Telegraph (GA)
Copyright: 2014 The Macon Telegraph Publishing Company
Author: Allen Peake
Note: Allen Peake represents District 141 in the state Legislature.


When the 2014 General Assembly session began 10 short weeks ago, the
odds of a medical cannabis bill passing this year would have been
longer than having a perfect March Madness bracket in Vegas because no
one was crazy enough to take that bet.

But by the time the last day of the legislative session arrived, the
issue of legalizing cannabidiol oil in Georgia to help children with
seizure disorders had picked up such momentum and popularity that its
passage seemed almost a certainty. But, despite the overwhelming
support, the effort failed on the last night. Many people have asked
me what in the heck happened.

I am as frustrated as anyone that a bill that would provide relief for
sick children and hope for their parents and had near unanimous
support in both the House and Senate isn't now on the way to the
governor's desk. It would be easy to point fingers at others, and in
my frustration that option is very tempting to call out those few that
blocked this bill, but placing blame at this point is useless.
Instead, I want to thank my many courageous colleagues in the House
and Senate whose hearts were changed and who eventually wholeheartedly
supported this effort, especially Speaker David Ralston.

Our focus from here on must remain on getting these children the help
they need and bringing the Georgia families home who have left our
state to seek cannabidiol oil where it is legal. Simply put, this oil
is a potential lifesaver, and it is improving the lives of so many
already in other states where it has been legalized. Meet three
children who have left our great state to move to Colorado.

Hunter Klepinger is 8 years old. He moved with his mom, dad and
brother from Cobb County to Colorado last November, away from loving
grandparents who were actively involved in his daily life, and started
taking cannabidiol oil right before Thanksgiving. Since then, Hunter's
seizures have decreased more than 60 percent. He had horrible clusters
of seizures, convulsing for up to 10 minutes, almost daily. Those
clusters are now under two minutes and the last one was Feb. 19, over
a month ago. He's calmer and happier than ever. His life quality is
drastically better. The Klepingers desperately want to move back home
to Georgia.

Haleigh, the 4-year-old inspiration behind Haleigh's Hope Act, House
Bill 885, moved to Colorado with her mom from Monroe County more than
two weeks ago. She has now been taking cannabidiol oil for over a week
and had just four seizures Tuesday, down from 200-plus a week ago. She
is more alert and has started smiling again. Her mom has not seen her
daughter smile since she was 2 years old. This may seem very minor,
but for a child who can only lie there and have seizure after seizure,
this is worth celebrating. The sad part for this family is that
Haleigh's mom, Janea, is in Colorado by herself. Haleigh's dad, Brian,
has to stay in Georgia in order to keep his job, which means they will
be separated during this critical time in Haleigh's life. We need to
bring them home.

And then there's 10-year-old Caden. He still has seizures every day
and frequently enters "status epilepticus," a seizure lasting longer
than five minutes. This last hope treatment of medical cannabis took
their family to Colorado. The seizures control Caden's life and in
turn, his family's. Caden's mom and brother are now living in Colorado
while their father, a 26-year veteran with the Atlanta Police
Department, is still in Georgia working to provide for their family.
Yes, they are separated by more than 1,500 miles.

These three children are only the tip of the iceberg. There are
hundreds of families that will become medical refugees in Colorado if
we don't act. But more importantly, children will die if we don't take
action soon. There is good news though. Gov. Nathan Deal announced
last week he will seek potential options for an executive order that
offers an immediate solution. These families deserve that, and we must
keep fighting for them.

Allen Peake represents District 141 in the state Legislature. 
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