Epilepsy patients applaud new state law

Law allows low-dose cannabis oil to treat seizures

SAN ANTONIO – Each week for months, Zach Moccia and his mother Leslie Moccia traveled to Austin and navigated Zach's wheelchair through the Capitol visiting each and every legislator.

"We were just asking every office to become educated," Leslie Moccia said.

It paid off Monday.

When Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill allowing the sickest epilepsy patients to use low-dose cannabis, or CBD, oil,  the mother and son were there.  After the signing, Abbott shook 25-year-old Zach's hand.

His mother was beyond proud because of what the law means for 149,000 Texans and what it means for Zach.

"It means a new treatment option, because we are absolutely out of all treatment options," Leslie Moccia said.

Despite medications and brain surgery, Zach still suffers small seizures daily as well as one to six more serious seizures each month.

Leslie Moccia said she has seen what CBD oil has done for other epilepsy patients by controlling their seizures.

"These kids are no longer in wheelchairs," she said. "The oxygen tube is gone. The feeding tubes are gone. They are engaged in life."

Zach nodded his head in agreement.

Abbott was adamant the new law does not open the door to medical marijuana in Texas. 

The law is  specific and narrow. The oil can only have very small amounts of the active ingredient in marijuana.  And it can only be prescribed by a physician who specializes in epilepsy treatment.

A second physician must also sign off.

Although the oil is extracted from marijuana plants, Sindi Rosales, CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation of Central and South Texas, said it should not be confused with medical marijuana.  Explaining the difference, she said, was part of educating and lobbying lawmakers.

"When we explained when they would take this product and there would be no high from it, that individuals would not want to take this to get high and get that euphoria, I think that really helped us," Rosales said.

The next step is the regulatory process.  At least three dispensaries will be established. The law calls for making CBC oil for epileptic seizure treatment available before September 2017.

"It gives me a lot of hope," Moccia said.

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