North Texas families lobby for medical marijuana

Marie Saavedra, WFAA - GRAPEVINE — In search of a new treatment option for their children, dozens of North Texas families are heading to Austin in support of two bills that could bring a form of medical marijuana to the state.

Shelby Sparks and her family left their Grapevine home Monday evening for what they see as the next step in the fight for a better life. Shelby, 14, has Dravet syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy which causes her to have anywhere from three to 12 seizures every evening.

Diagnosed at six months, the impact has left Shelby closer to the cognitive level of a two-year-old. The Sparks have spent the last 13 years searching for help, with no luck.

"We've been on over 15 different anti-convulsion drugs," said her father, Chuck Sparks.

So the family is heading to Austin for the one thing they haven't tried.

"We want the opportunity to try CBD oil," Sparks said.

Cannabidiol — or CBD oil — is made from marijuana plants, but is low in THC. First available in Colorado, many families using the treatment say the liquid reduces the number of seizures.

Starting Tuesday, the Sparks will be among dozens of families who will be asking the Texas Legislature to approve the use of CBD oil here.

Lauren Sparks said her daughter's affliction has changed her view about alternative medicine. "I would be one of those people from the get-go that as soon as I heard 'medical marijuana,' I would have shut my ears and said, 'No way!' But because it did affect me, I dug deeper, and saw what it actually was."

The Sparks believe CBD oil offers hope for a smoother life for Shelby.

So they'll make the drive to Austin and tell their daughter's story as many times as it takes, knowing they're not the only parents in Texas who want to do all they can — legally — to help their kids.

State Rep Stephanie Klick (R-Fort Worth) brought the CBD bill, HB 892, to the House, where it will be considered starting at 8 a.m. Tuesday.

The state Senate will hear its version (SB 339) on Wednesday. While the clock is ticking with just 35 days left in the session, supporters are hopeful it could pass, thanks to growing Republican support.

For more about Shelby and other children advocating for CBD usage, see their stories at the Compassionate Access for Epilepsy website.