BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A Louisiana mother has picked up and moved to Colorado, all in hopes of gaining access to medical marijuana that could treat her toddler's epilepsy.
Last month, Vernon Parish resident Michele Hall left her husband and much of her family behind, bringing her adopted 5-year-old daughter Ella with her on the cross-country journey.
"As a desperate mother, I did what I had to do," said Hall. "I'm basically a criminal if I go back home."
While Louisiana has technically not yet started its medical marijuana program, the drug can legally be used to treat a select group of diseases, including cancer and glaucoma. Epilepsy and other seizure-inducing diseases are not included.
Hall is currently calling for state lawmakers to pass a bill that would expand the variety of diseases that can be legally treated by the drug. HB 1112 is sponsored by Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge.
"We have an obligation to rely on science. Other states are doing this. We need to do the most so that our parents have all of the tools they need to care for their children," James said.
Also, the bill would allow for the establishment of medical marijuana manufacturers and distributors who can sell it in a liquid or edible form. Smoked cannabis would still not be permitted.
The Louisiana District Attorneys Association opposes the bill, much like they did a similar bill that has already advanced through the Senate. Organization leaders opposed SB 271 by Sen. Fred Mills, R-New Iberia, because they feared that it could serve as a gateway to recreational use and illegal activities.
"The bill provides very strict regulations. The law enforcement community will know who's growing, where they're located, and they'll have specific information to curb the fears about crime," James said.
Hall's daughter was diagnosed with epilepsy when she was one year old. Hall said that the medications prescribed to Ella in Louisiana caused developmental delays.
"Screaming bloody murder for not just a little while, for hours," she said.
Hall clamored for other ideas. Her mother gave her an article to read about medical marijuana that she initially set aside. Later, after Ella had a series of seizures, she reconsidered. Because she could not legally treat her daughter with the drug in Louisiana, she made the move.
She said the effects of the THC, which Ella takes in liquid form from a syringe, were almost immediate.
"I'm like well, maybe we just want it so bad, that we're seeing something in our heads. I was kind of skeptical. But then as time has gone on, you could just see, it's like a new child has developed," Hall said. "My husband's in Louisiana, my children are separated from their father. Everything - their birthdays - they had to spend away from their family for the first time ever. So this bill will hopefully let us come home sooner rather than later."
Hall, who said the bill is about helping the sick and not junkies, said a few years ago she never would have believed she would be supporting such a measure.
"I have a grown children and they will tell you. My son laughs at me all the time. Because growing up, I was adamant about drug use," she said.
The bill is expected to be debated in the House Health and Welfare committee in coming weeks.