Pubdate: Sun, 18 May 2014
Source: Anniston Star (AL)
Page: 3B
Copyright: 2014 Consolidated Publishing
Author: Dave Philipps, the Gazette ( Colorado Springs, Colo.)


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The Swann family moved from Alabama to
Colorado last fall to try save their daughter's life with marijuana.
It appears to have worked. And in the process, the Swanns and others
like them have changed laws across the country so more children can
have the same chance.

Four teen-year-old Allie Swann was having up to 100 seizures per day
that years of treatments, including surgery to remove part of her
brain, and debilitating drugs had not helped.

"She was on the same stuff they use for lethal injections in Alabama,"
her father, Butch Swann, said. "It couldn't go on."

So they came to Colorado. Like 115 other marijuana refugee families,
as they call themselves, from 43 states, they left family, jobs and
homes so they could try oil made from a special strain of cannabis
that reportedly quelled the seizures in a handful of kids in Colorado

With federal laws making medical marijuana research nearly impossible,
none of the oil's healing properties have been scientifically
verified, and the families have sometimes been dismissed as desperate

Now, six months after the first big group of children started using
the oil, many families like the Swanns say they see remarkable
improvements. A handful of families have returned home, some because
of the strain of having uprooted to move here, others for other reasons.

For many of the kids, their seizures are dropping in number and
intensity, and kids long lost to their medical conditions - or the
powerful drugs used to treat them - are rediscovering the world.

News of the success has spread across the country, prompting the
medical establishment to reassess cannabis and legislators to rewrite

This spring, 18 traditionally conservative states, mostly in the South
and Midwest, introduced medical marijuana bills narrowly tailored to
epileptic children. Seven have been made law, with several more close
to passing.

Butch Swann spoke repeatedly to radio and TV stations in Alabama about
how the oil, which cannot get users high, has helped his daughter and
could help thousands of others in the state. State legislators
approved a bill giving children access to the oil unanimously.

"I hope this Alabama-led medical study can bring relief to children,"
Alabama's governor said at the signing.

Butch Swann laughs when asked about it.

"I wouldn't have thought in a million years Alabama would pass medical
marijuana in any form," he said. "But I think people can see this is

Maybe soon, he said, his family can return to Alabama. But in the
meantime, he is enjoying a new life with his daughter.

Allie, who has the mental capacity of a 3- year-old, used to fly into
rages daily, screaming for hours and biting her hands until they bled.
Now she has a new air of calm contentment. Her hands have healed. An
EEG brain scan from a year ago showed a nonstop quake of seizure
activity. An EEG done a few weeks ago in Denver shows none.

On a recent warm evening she sat on the front steps of the family's
rented house in Fountain, Colo., with her father, watching her younger
brothers play ball.

"This is something we could never do before, just sit and enjoy life.
Her life was just a storm," Butch Swann said. "Now we can take her
shopping, go out to eat, just be a family together. It's the answer to
our prayers."

Allie leaned over and silently gave him a kiss.

There are now 180 children in Colorado taking the oil, with thousands
more on a waiting list. Other kids in Colorado and 19 other states
where medical marijuana is legal are using similar oils made from
other cannabis strains.

The oil is not a magic potion that suddenly returns these kids to
perfect health, but many parents say it controls seizures better than
anything they have tried.

Though a handful of kids who tried the oil saw no benefit, the vast
majority have seen seizures significantly reduced with no negative
side effects, said Dr. Margaret Gedde, a Colorado Springs physician
who is tracking the young marijuana patients. Of the 47 patients who
started taking the oil this fall, 28 percent reported more than 80
percent reduction in seizures, she said. Another 49 percent reported
some reduction in seizures and enough other benefits, including
improved mood and awareness, that they continue to use the oil.
Another 23 percent either stopped using the oil because it made
seizures worse, was ineffective, or because they moved back to a state
where the oil is banned.

"This is what is called anecdotal evidence, but it is also very real,"
said Gedde, who now has 195 pediatric marijuana patients. "We have 78
percent of patients benefiting from this. Often it allows them to get
off more dangerous medications. Clearly it has a role in treating epilepsy."  
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jo-D