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Girl still waiting for medicine 2 years after cannabis oil bill signed into law

Harper Grace’s Law faces federal obstacles

Article by WAPT

Two years ago, Harper Grace Durval became the face of the debate over cannabis oil in Mississippi.

Harper Grace, 4, has Dravet syndrome, a type of epilepsy that causes violent seizures. In other states, children like Harper Grace have used cannabis oil extract to fight the seizures. Gov. Phil Bryant signed the bill in 2014 to allow cannabis oil in Mississippi.

“I guessed (it would take) six months to a year, tops,” Harper Grace’s mother, Ashley Durval, said.

Two years later, Harper Grace and her mother are still waiting for the first dose of medicine.

“Harper Grace has actually had longer seizures, and they are starting to come more frequently,” Ashley Durval said.

Harper Grace takes seven kinds of medications to try to keep her seizures at bay.

Sen. Josh Harkins, the Flowood Republican who wrote the original bill, said he thought the cannabis-based medicine would be available by now.

“All the stuff necessary to get the permission from the federal government (is continuing),” Harkins said.

“But two years? That’s too long,” 16 WAPT’s Scott Simmons said.

“That’s too long. That’s too long in my book,” Harkins said.

Because the medication is available in other states, Mississippi parents are left with the undesirable option of illegally obtaining it either by going to another state to pick it up, or by having it shipped in.

An online search shows versions of cannabis oil extract available for a little as $16 a vial, Simmons reported. But in most cases, it’s illegal to transport the oil into a state that has not technically legalized medical cannabis.

“A lot of what has been done has been done outside the eyesight of federal oversight,” said Dr. Larry Walker, director of the National Center for Natural Products Research at the University of Mississippi.

Harper Grace’s Law said UMMC is the only place that is allowed to distribute or conduct clinical trials on cannabis oil extract. But since the hospital needs federal approval to do it, UMMC officials claim that they are bogged down in federal paperwork.

“For any kind of exploratory clinical research, we are going to have these regulations that take time (and) are very expensive,” Walker said. “It takes a lot of money to prepare these products and get them ready and registered, and in this case, on top of this, we have the regulatory aspects of it.”

Harper Grace’s mother is not the only one waiting and hoping that the medicine will soon be available in Mississippi.

“If we really wanted it, we could get it,” Ashley Durval said.

More people are likely to risk getting it illegally, rather than waiting for federal approval to take a chance on a medicine that may help their children.

Ten states have legalized cannabis oil, but not all have allowed patients to receive it.

Colorado businesses can produce the oil, but federal law bans interstate shipments of cannabis products.

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