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Senate votes to extend medical marijuana law to epileptic kids

SPRINGFIELD—With one senator hailing pot as God’s drug, a plan to expand the state’s medical marijuana law to include minors with seizure disorders passed the Senate Wednesday with resounding applause.

Sen. Iris Martinez, D-Chicago, proposed a bill permitting minors with seizure disorders, including epilepsy, to take a derivative of medical cannabis. It passed 49-5 in the Senate and goes to the House.

The floor debate got personal when Sen. Dan Kotowski, D-Park Ridge, shared with his colleagues that he grew up with epilepsy.

“They never told me you could die when you have a seizure,” Kotwoski said. “It’s a difficult circumstance because you completely lose control. When you wake up, you don’t know where you are; you can’t speak. It’s kind of like a stroke.”

Kotowski, who said he always wanted someone to stand up for him as an epileptic kid, called Martinez a “champion” for proposing legislation helping those with seizure disorders.

“What’s so important about this bill is it gives options and choices to families who oftentimes don’t have them,” he said. “I come from this from the standpoint as someone who lives well with epilepsy, but there are people who are dying, people who are suffering, and this is their opportunity to improve their quality of life.”

But Sen. David Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, whose grandson has as many as 100 seizures in a day, said he was torn about the bill because was concerned about the long-term side effects of marijuana on children.

Martinez responded that the marijuana extract given to seizing children had “no real side-effect,” especially compared to the FDA-approved drugs already on the market for epilepsy. She said that where current drugs fail to cut down on the number of seizures a kid has, marijuana oil has been proven to significantly reduce seizures “in an enormous way.”

But Sen. Tim Bivins, R-Dixon, said he wouldn’t vote for the bill because it didn’t specify how the medicine would be taken. Bivins said he opposed the idea of allowing kids to smoke the drug.

Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, came to the defense of the bill, saying the important thing is that marijuana actually works at reducing seizures.

“God grows this drug,” Jacobs said. “It grows from a seed, like corn. I look forward the day in my community where we can not only harvest it but build machines to harvest it.”