A Pennsylvania pastor supports the legalization of medical marijuana that could benefit one of his church members by significantly reducing the multiple seizures she suffers every day.
Brett Hartman, senior pastor of New Covenant Fellowship Church in Mechanicsburg, Pa., believes that medical marijuana, given in an oil form low in THC, could be the solution for Anna Knecht, 11, who has dravet syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy.
"Anna's condition isn't getting better and so we're kind of like, 'let's make sure our representatives know this. Let's make sure that maybe we don't have to go through all the bureaucracy,'" said Hartman, reports Fox 43 News.
Hartman, along with the help of his congregation, signed more than 250 birthday cards at Knecht's birthday party hosted at the church on Wednesday. The cards make her case for needing medical marijuana and will be hand-delivered by her parents to state lawmakers.
Knecht is on a waiting list for Charlotte's web, a non-psychoactive medical cannabis that's available in Colorado, where it is legal and has proven to help children with seizures.
If Anna's parents get notice that her medicine is available, the family will split as she will temporarily live in Colorado with her mother while her father stays in Pennsylvania with her other siblings.
"It's really about a God-given plant that we can use for good," said Mark Knecht, Anna's father. "Obviously, our hope is that it would continue in Pennsylvania. But for now, it looks like we're going to have to go to Colorado."
Although Anna might get treatment in Colorado, her parents will continue to advocate for medical marijuana in Pennsylvania, but they feel as though they are running out of time to get her on medication.
"Anna's seizures come on with no warning. They can occur at any time of the day or night, especially when she's sleeping," said Deb, Anna's mother. "She's had up-to 400 in a day, and her longest one has been a day-and-a-half."
Legalizing medical marijuana in the state is going to take more than the Knecht's efforts, as Republican Gov. Tom Corbett has said he would veto any legalization bill, even if it is limited to medical uses, because he considers marijuana a gateway drug.
According to a recent poll by Connecticut's Quinnipiac University, 85 percent of Pennsylvania voters believe residents should have access to the drug if prescribed by a doctor. However, 48 percent of voters support the possession of small amounts of medical marijuana for recreational use, while 49 percent oppose it.
Earlier this year, two state senators introduced legislation to legalize medical marijuana in the state. The bill marks the first time in Senate history that a medical cannabis bill has been drafted with bipartisan support.