FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky House members voted Wednesday to legalize a medicinal oil derived from marijuana or hemp as an option to combat childhood seizures, then stood and cheered a group of children and their parents who hope to benefit from the new treatment.
"I feel like we've won the lottery," Rita Wooton, whose young son suffers from chronic seizures, told reporters afterward. "I never thought it would happen. We're going to seek treatment as soon as it's available in this state."
The bill, once seemingly a longshot, cleared the House on a 98-0 vote. During the debate, Wooton, her son Eli and others directly affected by the legislation watched from the back of the House chambers. Afterward, they basked in applause and received hugs from some lawmakers.
Wooton said her family was prepared to leave the state to get the treatment for her son in a state where the oil, which is not intoxicating, is legal.
Now, with one more supportive vote from lawmakers and a signature from the governor, they'll be able to stay in Kentucky to receive the drug.
"We hope this will allow them to stay at home and get it and seek the relief for their children that they deserve," said Democratic Rep. John Tilley of Hopkinsville, who shepherded the bill through the House.
The measure next returns to the Senate, which already passed it 38-0. The House amended the bill to name the proposed law after a baby girl who suffers from seizures. If the Senate accepts that change, the bill would go to Gov. Steve Beshear for his consideration.
If it becomes law, the measure would represent a limited breakthrough for medicinal use of a derivative of marijuana, a plant banned in the state decades ago. The bill would specifically allow use of cannabidiol.
"This has nothing to do with marijuana," said Rep. Tim Couch.
The substance would be allowed when recommended by doctors practicing at the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville research hospitals. The bill also would allow anyone enrolled in a U.S. Food and Drug Administration trial to be treated with the oil.
The benefits could apply to adults as well as children suffering from severe seizures, though debate on the bill has focused on the plight of children.
A much broader bill to legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky cleared a House committee earlier in the legislative session but has stalled since then.
The legislation is Senate Bill 124.