JACKSON COUNTY, Ky. (WHAS11) – Down a windy road in Jackson County, Kentucky, 150 miles east of Louisville, grows what some parents call, “hope.”
It’s hope in the form of hemp and hope for a little girl named Jolie.
“She’s been hospitalized 6 or 7 times since November to now,” parent Jennifer Harrell said.
Jolie is an 8-month-old who suffers from a rare seizure disorder – a type of epilepsy and takes several pharmaceutical drugs.
“All of the decisions we have had to make on the medications have been horrible. One side effect can cause Stephen Johnson syndrome that can make skin fall off. The ones she’s on now can cause blindness in 30 percent of the people,” Harrell said.
This fall, Jolie and her family will be among the first in line to get CBD oil from Kentucky hemp plants.
CBD is short for Cannabidiol – an oil from hemp plants a growing number of parents say controls seizures in their children.
Parents aren’t the only ones, according to a report issued by the National Institutes of Health.
This year GW Pharmaceuticals, a British company, will conduct phase 2 trials in the United States testing Cannabidiol for experimental treatment of epilepsy.
“We have about 6 varieties of high CBD hemp,” Bill Polyniak said.
Bill Polyniak heads Caring by Design, a private group that will fund this operation.
As the father of a little boy with epilepsy, Polyniak quit his Lexington small business to grow hemp.
“ We were on a cocktail of medications that we were called late one evening and told to immediately stop because if we didn't his internal organs would start bleeding out,” Polyniak said.
They’ve turned some eastern Kentucky greenhouses into hemp operations surrounded by a fair amount of secrecy. The hemp grows behind black privacy fences.
The land and land owner wished to remain anonymous out of fears their hemp plants, identical in appearance to marijuana, would be mistaken for pot and stolen.
Which Polyniak says would be a waste of time because hemp won’t get you high.
Even the state of Kentucky is being cautious.
The Kentucky Agriculture Department has take steps to protect the hemp pilot projects and to protect hemp plants. They will test the plants to ensure the level of THC is so low that it won’t get you high.
They have even give Kentucky State Police GPS coordinates of all the pilot projects to make sure the hemp is not eradicated along with marijuana.
Polyniak and others admit they see more here than medicine. They believe hemp, in all its forms, may be Kentucky’s next cash crop.
“When law enforcement said no to it, I was the only one who stood up and said yeah because we’re dealing with the truth. The truth is Kentucky needs it,” Jackson County Sheriff Denny Peyman said. “Our farmers are dying for something to raise.”
“Many companies want this product. They can’t patent it can they? No, but they can market it,” Polyniak said. “There’s a whole industry that’s getting ready to explode here.”
This should come as no surprise to the federal government.
A patent was granted to the U.S. Government in 2003. It states that Cannabinoids, the chemicals in hemp, are found to limit the damage of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and HIV dementia.
How much will the Cannabidiol from the plants cost? This fall, the CBD oil that comes from the plants at this location will be free. After, no one seems to know.
Whatever the cost, parents like Jennifer and Chris Harrell are ready to pay the price.
“I firmly believe God has big plans for his little girl. If this is God's plan for her and this is what's going to work, then, let's do it,” Harrell said.
Federal agencies are now taking a different stand on hemp and marijuana.
In essence, the Food and Drug Administration acknowledges that many people say CBD oil is effective.
However, the FDA can’t assure Cannabidiol is safe and effective.
An FDA official recently told Congress that their working with researches who are conducting studies on the development and drugs derived from marijuana.