Pennsylvania lawmakers are taking up the issue of medical marijuana, and a Bethlehem mother is speaking out in favor of it.
Deena Kenney testified at a hearing held Tuesday by the Senate Law and Justice Committee on a bill that would legalize marijuana for medical purposes. She wants the opportunity to see if it would help her 17-year-old son, Chris.
"Tuberous sclerosis causes hardening of parts of the brain so he has several areas that he was born with that are hardened already which means it causes autism, mental retardation, uncontrollable seizures and behavioral issues," she told 69 News about Chris' condition.
Kenney said her son's seizures started when he was six weeks old.
"He had about 80 to 100 every day for the first two years then it got so bad that he got paralyzed on one side of his body," she said.
Kenney said Chris has had surgery, tried 17 different medications and is now having three to five seizures a day.
"We need medical marijuana. It's our only option left. Our only option actually right now is a drug that has two black box FDA warnings on it that could make him go blind or could turn his skin permanently blue," said Kenney.
"It piqued my interest enough to want to continue to look at the issue," said Pa. Sen. Chuck McIlhinney, R-Bucks/Montgomery counties, chairman of the Law and Justice Committee.
"A year ago, I would have said, 'All right, we're dispensing marijuana to be smoked.' Now we're talking. Today, we spent the majority of the hearing discussing the extracting compounds and putting them into pill or tablet forms," McIlhinney added.
"I start off as a no, but as with anything, I'm willing to listen to people who may have different opinions," said Pa. Rep. Gary Day, R-Lehigh/Berks counties. "I think what we have to do before we go any further with the legalization of medical marijuana in any form is to study the productivity change and maybe the effects of social services in some of the states that have ventured down this path."
Kenney doesn't know for sure whether medical marijuana would help her son, but she wants to be able to at least try and find out.
"If he didn't have seizures and if he didn't have the behavioral problems, my gosh, we could actually live a life," she said. "If it doesn't help him, it'll help someone else."
The Pennsylvania Medical Society said more study is needed.