COLLEGE STATION, TX — Medical cannabis legalization has made its way back to the Texas Legislature, as some lawmakers, and advocates, see the 2021 session as an opportunity to fix the Compassionate Use Program.
The youngest registered lobbyist at the 87th Texas Legislature, a Texas A&M student and medical cannabis patient, Julia Patterson.
“I really want to be a voice for those who are struggling, and provide that same opportunity to chase the hope of a normal life that I received through medical marijuana,” says Julia Patterson, a registered Lobbyist for KK125 Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation.
In 2008, Julia, a native to Round Top, Texas, was diagnosed with intractable epilepsy after experiencing her first major seizure as a kindergartner.
“I had 200 seizures a day, each one lasting 15 to 30 seconds and I lost out on a lot of life as you can imagine,” shared Patterson.
Julia went through multiple treatment options, countless prescriptions, and surgery, but it was medical cannabis that has been Julia’s second chance at a normal life. Julia has not experienced a seizure for over a year.
“What changed for her [Julia] the most, was something that was not externally visible day-to-day, but we knew it had an impact, and it was clearly a marker of remarkable improvement in response to treatment that no other medicine was capable of doing," says Dr. Karen Keough, a board-certified pediatric neurologist who specializes in treating intractable epilepsy at Child Neurology Consultants of Austin and Serves as Chief Medical Officer of Texas Original Compassionate Cultivation.
"No other treatment, no brain surgery, no dietary therapy no medicine, no electrical therapy with VNS had cleaned up her EEG until she started CBD therapy." Dr. Keough added.
In this year's legislative session, Julia is advocating for changes to Senate Bill 339, the Compassionate Use Program, to include removing restrictions on qualifying conditions to now include non-terminal cancer, PTSD, and chronic pain; ultimately, putting the power to prescribe life-changing medicine into doctors hands, as well as eliminating the THC cap; optimizing cannabinoid levels for various symptoms, which will ensure patients get the relief they need, following, the THC levels their doctor recommends.
“Right now, patients are experiencing undue burdens from side effects, resulting in taking a large amount of oil to achieve that amount of THC," says Patterson.
“That's why it would be very helpful to be able to give a higher concentration of THC in those treatments, even though it wouldn't change the daily amount of total THC that individual patients are taking" says Dr. Keough.
Another area Dr. Keough would like to see addressed, is the logistics of getting patients their medicine which includes cutting down on the delivery costs. Julia says, she has to travel anywhere from 50 to 100 miles to pick up here medical cannabis.
“It takes some planning ahead, because there is only one location. So, I either have to drive to Austin, or they have a delivery truck that goes around Texas,” says Patterson.
“The cost to the patient is a huge limitation as well, because, since this is very chronic therapy, we want to be able to provide this high-quality treatment as cost-effectively as we can,” says Dr. Keough.
Julia says ,she’s confident to see changes made this Legislative Session.
“This past year has been challenging regarding health concerns, and I believe the Texas Legislature will be compassionate, especially in the instances of helping those with medical conditions, and other debilitating issues," shared Patterson.
Julia will also advocate on behalf of young cancer patients whose fertility is compromised by treatments such as chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation, and will also encourage lawmakers to adopt the Truth in Medicine Act; that will allow the open sharing of information related to “off-label” use of medications in Texas.