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April 29, 2015
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The Texas Senate
Senator Kevin Eltife of Tyler authored the measure that would allow the use of a certain preparation of cannabis to treat a specific form of epilepsy.

(AUSTIN) — A bill that would permit the use of a specific preparation of marijuana to treat a certain seizure disorder was considered by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Wednesday. Tyler Senator Kevin Eltife said that many children in the state suffer from seizures that do not respond to mainstream pharmaceuticals. Cannabidiol, or CBD oil, is an orally taken medication derived from the marijuana plant that has shown promise in the treatment of intractable seizure disorder. This oil contains only trace amounts of THC, the intoxicating chemical found in marijuana. "It is of no interest to recreational drug users and has no street value," said Eltife.

Intractable epilepsy is defined as epilepsy that does not respond to two or more anti-seizure medications. Eltife told colleagues that the disease mostly affects children and can inflict hundreds of seizures on sufferers every week, often leading to developmental delays or disabilities. His bill, SB 332, would set up a framework governing the production and distribution of CBD oil to people with intractable epilepsy disorder. The Department of Public Safety would oversee the program, and two doctors would have to certify the medical necessity of a prescription. "This is a very focused bill that will help parents who have kids with a chronic illness," said Eltife. "We have a chance to help people with this legislation."

Two pediatric neurologists were among those offering testimony in support of the bill. Dr. Freedom Perkins of Seton Healthcare said that nearly 150,000 Texans are afflicted with intractable seizures. Some of these patients have tried as many as twenty anti-seizure medications and many of these drugs can have severe side effects. He said he believes that CBD oil can offer a complimentary treatment option with extremely low risk of side effects. Dr. Gretchen von Allman of the University of Texas Health Science Center said that early studies have shown promising results. She said that CBD oil showed a reduction of seventy to eighty percent in number of seizures in test subjects.

In floor action Wednesday, the Senate passed a bill addressing one of Governor Greg Abbott's top priorities for the session. In his February State of the State Address, Abbott highlighted the need for Texas universities to better compete for world-class researchers. SB 632, by Horseshoe Bay Senator Troy Fraser, seeks to meet this priority by creating the Governor's University Research Initiative. This fund will award grants to universities to help them recruit top research scientists from around the world. Money for this program will come from the elimination of the Emerging Technology Fund. Existing funds in the ETF will be divided equally between the Research Initiative and the Texas Enterprise Fund.

Also Wednesday, the Senate approved a measure that aims to make it easier for veterans to get a job. It would do this by offering tax exemptions for businesses that hire one or more veterans. SB 1821 would allow local taxing entities to grant property tax exemptions for companies that hire an honorably-discharged veteran and keep him or her on staff for at least one year. Bill author Senator Donna Campbell of San Antonio says her plan will aid veterans in finding work after leaving the military. "We in the Senate do have an opportunity to reduce the barriers that still exist for veterans transitioning back into the civilian workforce," she said. "This Senate bill will help our veterans."

The Senate will reconvene Thursday, April 30 at 10 a.m.

Session video and all other Senate webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's Audio/Video Archive.