Utahns fight for access to marijuana strain that helps children with seizures

Posted at 10:08 PM, Oct 11, 2013

SALT LAKE CITY -- A South Jordan woman is part of a group of Mormon mothers who want to bring a marijuana extract to Utah.

It's all to control the seizures that torment their children, and now, a Utah lawmaker is joining their fight.

State Representative Gage Froerer from Huntsville believes the extract known as "Charlotte's Web" may be exactly what these children need to live a better life. He's ready to sponsor legislation so parents can get it without fear of prosecution.

Froerer is an unlikely face in this cause. He pushed for a ban on the synthetic form of po called spice. But he said this is not medical marijuana. The extract would be age limited and specifically for kids who suffer from severe seizures.

April Sinz's 7-year-old son Isaac suffers from Dravet Syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy that's left him with  learning disabilities, plus dozens of seizures a day. Half a dozen medications, plus diet changes, have led to little improvements, and after hearing that a Colorado girl and many others have dramatically reduced epileptic attacks by taking a marijuana extract, April wants to try the same for her son.

"It's showing such great results for children with Dravet Syndrome,” Sinz said. “We're hoping for better seizure control but even more than that, we want to get him off these medications he's on right now because he already has kidney failure and the medication is causing kidney damage.”

The unique marijuana strain has been nicknamed "Charlotte's Web.” It has high levels of cannabidiol, which is part of the cannabis, but low levels of the ingredient that gets marijuana users high.

"The people who look to this to get high will be very disappointed," Froerer said. "It has very low, .05 THC levels and very high CBD.  The research says that the CBD is the significant component that helps with these procedures."

Sinz agreed the strain isn’t for smoking.

"Our children are not smoking pot or anything like that,” she said. “It's an oil they'll be taking by mouth, some will even take it as a capsule.”

Since marijuana is illegal in Utah, Froerer said he's prepared to sponsor legislation to bring the extract from Colorado to the beehive state, specifically for parents like April Sinz.

Froerer said after hearing about an 80 percent success rate in reducing seizures in Colorado, "It convinced me that if this extract, and this is not medical marijuana, will in fact help these children reduce the significance of these seizures, then we need to do everything we can to help these families."

He said he'll meet with Utah's substance abuse advisory council next month.  Froerer is hoping the extract won't be labeled a controlled substance and parents can import it without fear of prosecution. If the state won't give the green light, he'll sponsor legislation in the upcoming session.