New Castle News

Closer Look

November 20, 2013

Local family moving for marijuana treatment

HARRISBURG — Amy and Jamie Houk and their 5-year-old son, Cameron, are medical refugees.

The family is moving from New Castle to Colorado, where they can legally buy medical marijuana to treat Cameron’s epilepsy.

Twenty states across the country, including Delaware and New Jersey, have legalized some form of medical marijuana. But Colorado is the place to get a special extraction of cannabis that shows promise in the treatment of pediatric epilepsy, Amy Houk said.

Medical use of marijuana is illegal in Pennsylvania. But legislation introduced in the Senate on Monday would allow doctors to prescribe the drug, which has been used to treat people suffering glaucoma, asthma, nausea and seizures.

The Houks and about 50 others rallied at the statehouse to support the bill, authored by Sen. Mike Folmer of Lebanon County and Sen. Daylin Leach of Philadelphia.

Without the law, Amy Houk said her family must leave.

Amy and Jamie have lived in Lawrence County their entire lives. Jamie works as a chemical mixer for a company that has locations in Colorado, but if he took a similar job there it would mean a substantial pay cut.

“We’re leaving behind everything we’ve ever known,” Amy Houk said.

The family must establish residency in Colorado to qualify for the medical marijuana, and then they can’t take the drugs across state lines, so Cameron won’t be able to leave the state. The producer harvests twice a year. The family got their application completed in October in order to get Cameron approved in time for the March harvest, Amy Houk said.

The drug cocktail being used now to help his seizures temporarily leaves Cameron largely unresponsive. About 30 minutes before he is due to take his medication, when the pharmaceuticals start to wear off, his mom notices Cameron start to come out of the fog.

“I get this little time with him,” Amy Houk said. “He will make eye contact and I see that little boy again.”

Even with the drugs, Cameron has frequent seizures. Cameron had two grand mal seizures while his mom held him during Monday’s rally in Harrisburg.

His parents hope the medical cannabis — an extract mixed with olive oil and given by dropper — will abate his seizures without the side effects of the pharmaceuticals.

“There are kids that were catatonic, that were on feeding tubes” who have improved dramatically using medical marijuana, Amy Houk said.

It’s the kind of success that a young girl, Charlotte Figi, experienced. Her mother, Paige Figi, joined the Harrisburg  rally. She was accompanied by Josh Stanley, who leads a non-profit that manufactures the cannabis extract used to treat children with seizure disorders.

Charlotte went from having 300 seizures a week to three a week. Her improvement was featured in a CNN documentary on the medical marijuana debate and has prompted scores of families across the country to do what the Houks are doing — pulling up stakes and moving to Colorado.

While the parents clamor for quick action, there is little consensus that the research is clear enough to warrant immediate policy changes.

Pennsylvania Medical Society spokesman Charles Moran said the organization has put off taking a position on medical marijuana, relying instead on the stance of the American Medical Association.

The national doctors’ group has called for more research on its effectiveness.

Attorney general Kathleen Kane opposes any effort to legalize marijuana for recreational use, but is taking a wait-and-see approach on medical marijuana, her spokesman Joe Peters said.

The Pennsylvania State Association of Nurses has also called for more research, but the organization has publicly stated that medical marijuana should be decriminalized for those suffering from glaucoma, asthma, seizures, and nausea.

Gov. Tom Corbett's office has said he will veto any marijuana legalization bill, even if it would be limited to medical uses.

The Associated Press reported the governor’s opposition stems from the perception that marijuana is a “gateway drug” that leads users to more dangerous ones.

John Hanger, the former Environmental Protection secretary, has made decriminalization of marijuana part of the platform in his bid for the Democratic nomination to challenge Corbett in 2014. Hanger said resistance to efforts to legalize medical marijuana is based on “paranoia.”

(Email: jfinnerty@cnhi.com)

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Closer Look
  • well.jpg Auditor: State doesn’t have enough inspectors to monitor wells

    The state’s 83 well inspectors face a daunting enough challenge keeping tabs on 120,000 active oil and gas wells that have been drilled over the last century.

     

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • vote.jpg Independent hopefuls may widen gubernatorial field

    Just when Pennsylvania voters were getting used to the idea of a gubernatorial election showdown between Republican incumbent Tom Corbett and Democratic challenger Tom Wolf, other hopefuls may soon be joining the fray.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • manna.jpg John K. Manna: Measuring the money

    Should we even bother to have an election in November? By some accounts, maybe the results of some contests are already in.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • shooting.jpg Man injured in city shooting

    A man was flown to a Pittsburgh hospital Thursday morning following a shooting on West Lincoln Avenue.

     

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • police.jpg Police: Man pulls gun on construction workers

    Construction workers in Neshannock Township flagged down police Thursday claiming a business owner had pulled a gun on them.

     

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Shooting.jpg Shooting witness arrested for giving false name

    State police have arrested a second Detroit area man after questioning him about Sunday’s fatal shooting in Ellwood City. DeMarco Dorian Hoskins, 22, of Highland Park, Mich., was the third man in a private car that transported the deceased to look for a hospital. Hoskins allegedly gave police a false identity when they questioned him as witness.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • bridgerepair.jpg PennDOT seeks outside help to make bridge repairs

    State officials are poised to sign a massive deal that will enlist outside help to rebuild and maintain up to 600 bridges, marking the Corbett administration’s latest foray into privatizing key government functions.

     

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • GALLO_Natalie.jpg County native plays Clinton intern

    Natalie Gallo isn’t an intern, but she’s playing one on the New York stage.

     

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Shooting.jpg Coroner: Shooting victim hit by two bullets

    An autopsy revealed a Detroit area man killed in an Ellwood City shootout had suffered two gunshot wounds. Only one was a fatal hit.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • schoolmoney.jpg Schools strain from weight of rising pension costs

    Gov. Tom Corbett is ratcheting up pressure on the Legislature to reform the state's pension system by focusing on how often school districts use tax increases to offset costs.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

House Ads
Seasonal Content
Section Teases
Must Read
Continuous Super Bowl Coverage