Moms push to legalize industrial hemp in Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS - A bill to legalize industrial hemp has gained the support of Indiana farmers, manufacturers and even some local moms.

Mothers Miriah Mershon and Brandy Barrett hope the legislation could be they answer they’ve been looking for.

Both mothers have sons with Dravet syndrome. Noah and Jameson can’t go to the zoo or the beach because elements as simple as heat, too little sleep or too much stimulation can cause seizures.

Mershon has watched her son Jameson have as many as 50 seizures in four hours.

"You're always afraid. Is this going to happen when I'm not there? Is this going the be the one? Because any grand mal seizure could be the one that stops his heart," Mershon said.

Both moms have tried countless combinations of medications -- some have had serious side effects and some have increased the seizures.

There is a natural plant oil that shows promise in clinical trials for patients with Dravet syndrome, but Mershon and other moms in Indiana can’t even try it.

"It is illegal to have it here in the state of Indiana. We cannot have it. And so if this legislation passes, then we would," Mershon said.

That legislation is Senate Bill 357. It would allow Indiana farmers to grow industrial hemp -- a plant that does not contain the THC that gives marijuana users a high.

Hemp can be used to make everything from office supplies to clothing and soaps. And hemp oil has been shown to greatly reduce -- even stop -- seizures in some children with Dravet syndrome.

One girl in Colorado went from having hundreds of seizures a day to about one a day.

"She now is walking. She now is talking. She's riding a bicycle for the first time in her life. That, for us, is such a strong component to why we feel like this could really give our children a shot. You hear those stories and you know those children are suffering from the same thing. And for it to have made such a world of difference for their quality of life, it gives you goose bumps that maybe there's finally a chance that we'll have something that can make a difference," Barrett said.

The bill passed unanimously through the Senate and will head to an agriculture committee at the House on Feb. 20.

Indiana manufacturers currently have to import hemp from China and Canada. Indiana was one of the top producers of hemp during World War II before it became illegal.

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