It was documentaries, such as Dr. Sanjay Gupta's CNN special "Weed" which showed other families with children suffering from the same condition as Harper Grace, displaying the practical, effective use of cannabidiol in bettering the child's' quality of life. Considering all options and possibilities for Harper Grace, Ashley's family decided to reach out to Senator Harkins for help. It was Harper Grace's godmother who made the first call to him.
"I thought she needed help getting on Medicaid or something like that." Harkins says in the podcast. He was taken aback when he discovered the actual request was for him to "legalize marijuana." He thinks to himself, there is no way, but promises to examine the research on what cannabidoil (CBD for short) can do. He began watching "Weed".
"After twenty minutes, I was blown away," he says. "There was no way I could not do something."
Ashley and Senator Harkins took some time to explain to us what CBD extracts are, what it can do for patients, and why it does not produce the "high" effect commonly associated with marijuana. In fact, THC, which is the compound that produces that "high" feeling, will be restricted to under 1% of the plant makeup in any cannabis plant that is grown for these medical purposes in Mississippi. The CBD percentage will be closer to 15% or greater.
It might come as a surprise to some that Mississippi's congress would allow such a bill to pass (which it did, overwhelmingly) but the state may actually be one of the best places to grow and research the cannabis plant. Ole Miss will be responsible for the production and distribution of the cannabis plants and extracts. This will take place in the university's "Natural Products Lab", which has been growing medical grade marijuana for decades for the purpose of research and even a few applied federal programs for patients. This facility, which is unlike any other in the United States, may be the perfect place for advanced cannabis research and application.
Before he could start on the bill, which would later be named "The Harper Grace Bill", Senator Harkins consulted with the director of the lab who oversees the Ole Miss lab. Then he consulted with the Bureau of Narcotics. Then the university needed approval from the DEA and The Federal Drug Administration. Within 3 weeks of sending off a request, he was given the okay by all. It was one of the fastest responses given to the Natural Products Lab.
This speedy response from such organizations is somewhat surprising, considering the DEA and FDA's stance on cannabis in America. No matter what role marijuana plays in any US state, whether it is one of the over 20 that allow it for medical purposes, or it is out right legal for recreational use, marijuana is regarded as highly illegal by the federal government. A stance that many have criticized for years. But Ashley and her family were prepared to do whatever it took for their daughter.
"We considered moving to Colorado," she says. "We would go to Mexico <if we had to>". With help from Colorado's "Realm of Care", an organization that helps families get to Colorado for cannabis medicines, that thought was a real possibility.
After seeing Dr. Sanjay Gupta's documentaries, it's hard to argue with her. Charlotte Figi, the child with Dravet Syndrome in the first "Weed" documentary, goes from 300 grand mal seizures a week before CBD, to one a week. This is a miracle when you consider the last resort the family was contemplating. A risky operation that involves splitting the brain in half that can leave the child damaged for life if it goes wrong. When Senator Harkins and Ashley Durval followed up on the documentary by calling Charlotte 's mother, Paige Figi, she gave them her report on the side-effects.
"She sleeps better, she eats better," Harkins and Ashley say together. "She goes outside more, goes to school...She is on less medication, she is off her feeding tube and can swallow her own food...She is starting to walk again, to talk again..." In closing, Figi says they have had no negative side-effects.
As we continued talking, we discussed what positives may come from Mississippi doing more research with cannabis and why it was made illegal in the first place. A story of how William Randolf Hearst securing his monopoly in the paper industry by running a smear campaign on hemp and marijuana. The ties to money and power made the plant illegal almost a hundred years ago and still effects it today with huge, multi-million dollar corporations such as prescription drug companies, for-profit prisons, alcohol and tobacco industries all actively fighting to keep marijuana illegal. Meanwhile, if its statues does change, Mississippi could be a premier location (as it used to be) for green industries that have had huge success in place like Colorado and Washington. According to Forbes, in its first month of recreational sales in Colorado, the state pulled $2 million in taxes and is projected to see more than $40 million by the end of 2014, which could go to school systems or other state projects.
With such a large, untapped industry, one has to wonder what medical marijuana could be like in a free market in the hospitality state. As an agricultural state, Mississippi could stand to gain a great deal from cannabis acceptance. It is more of a question of how fast they will react before other states establish themselves in the new, exploding market.
For now, the victory of the Harper Grace Bill is everything to her family, who have been with her the whole way through.
"If this bill helped just one child in Mississippi, it's worth it." Senator Harkins said. And from the look of things, many more will be positively effected by this bill, which goes into effect July 1.
Click the link here to hear the full Coastal Noise Podcast interview with Senator Harkins and Ashley Durval, or, visit our new Youtube channel and subscribe for continued video updates.
To learn more about Dravet Syndrome, I highly recommend you view the Dr. Sanjay Gupta special "Weeds" here. The full documentary is available in the Coastal Noise video section. To see the Harper Grace Bill over view, click here. To support awareness for Dravet Syndrome, please share anything related to this episode, as our interview is quite possibly the most descriptive, source based form of information regarding Dravet Syndrome and CBD oils for this new bill in Mississippi.
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