EAST GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- More than 100,000 Michiganders have epilepsy, and about 30 percent of them have a type that's resistant to medications. One mother in Kent County says a form of medical marijuana is the only thing that works to control her teenage daughter's violent seizures.
Sixteen-year-old Laine Richards has been on almost every anti-seizure drug combination that doctors could come up with, none of which stopped her seizures or didn't have serious side effects.
Five times a day, an alarm goes off in Richards' East Grand Rapids home, meaning it's time for her to take her medications. Among those are anti-seizure medication for her epilepsy.
“Laine has failed 10 drug regiments," her mother Carla Boyd said. "Eight drugs, 10 different combinations of those drugs. Some of them were really fast, the first drug she was on she was in the hospital within four days I think."
Laine suffers three types of seizures, the worst of which are grand mal seizures, which are incredibly dangerous.
"For five days, she can't go to school. She's utterly exhausted to her core and thankfully she's only had five," Boyd said.
Nine months ago, Boyd found something that works for her daughter: CBD oil. She hasn't had a grand mal seizure since.
"With her CBD oil, she’s not suffered a single side effect," Boyd said. "That’s not to say they’re aren’t side effects, more research needs to be done, but compared to the anti-seizure medications, it’s nothing compared to that."
CBD oil is only legal in Michigan with a medical marijuana card for an approved list of conditions, seizures caused by epilepsy being one. It's derived from the cannabis plant, but doesn't contain THC.
“They just need to have a physician certification that they have a debilitating medical condition that meets those qualifications," said Andrew Brisbo, Director of LARA's bureau of Medical Marihuana Regulation. "And for minor patients there’s a requirement that they have two physician certifications and that their parent or guardian is their registered primary caregiver."
Laine takes two doses of CBD oil twice a day, which costs more than $5,000 a year. That's on top of her regular medications that are covered by insurance, but still those still run $300 a month.
It's a lot of money, but Carla says CBD oil is the only thing that works and the side effects are much more manageable.
“This is a child who’s suffering from incurable, drug-resistant seizures, why wouldn’t you try it?" Boyd says. "Why wouldn’t you give this medication that has minimal side effects compared to a lot of the anti-seizure drugs that we’ve experienced, why wouldn’t you?"
Carla and Laine have become strong advocates for CBD oil, speaking at the capitol and meeting with lawmakers.
"What I pray for every day is that the federal government will de-schedule marijuana so it will open up research," Boyd said.
They hope more research will provide easier access for more families dealing with epilepsy.
"She's the healthiest she's been," Boyd said. "I'd says she's the happiest overall as far as how she's feeling, and that's all thanks to the CBD oil."
Brisbo says a LARA board will meet in July, where they will likely be implementing rules as far as where you can purchase medical marijuana. It'll only be able to come from approved vendors within the state, meaning Carla will have to eventually find a place to get CBD oil here in Michigan instead of ordering it online from Colorado.