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A Local Family's Fight For Medical Marijuana

By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The fight over legalizing medical marijuana in Pennsylvania is expected to gear up again next month.  Families who could benefit are frustrated that the legislation isn't moving faster.  3 On Your Side Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl has one family's story.

Seven-year-old Lorelei Ulrich who has epilepsy is having a seizure.  Instead of the typical convulsions Lorelei appears to nod off for a few seconds and then snaps out of it.

"Her health has deteriorated as well as her developmental gains.  She's lost.  Last year she was able to write her name.  This year, she can not do that anymore," said Dana Ulrich, Lorelei's mother.

And while she's able to enjoy herself playing in the backyard in Bucks County, Lorelei now has trouble communicating.  She's had all kinds of treatments,  but nothing has stopped the seizures.  Medications help a little, but cause serious side effects.

Doctors say the only thing that might control the seizures is medical marijuana, but it's not legal in Pennsylvania.

A recent poll shows 84 percent of Pennsylvania voters favor legalizing medical marijuana.  There is bipartisan support in the legislature, but no action was taken on the bill before summer recess.

"They're on a 77 day break, and so while there's away and enjoying their families and having barbecues Lorelei will have an estimated 46,000 seizures in that 77 days," said Dana.

"It makes my head want to explode," said Daylin Leach, Pennsylvania State Senator in Montgomery County.  He co-sponsored the bill to legalize medical marijuana and is frustrated by what he calls foot dragging in Harrisburg.

Physicians who are in favor of medical marijuana says tens of thousands of people would benefit, including cancer patients.

"There are a lot of people who need help.  Why would we deny them that help when in the alternative we give them drugs that don't work as well, are far more toxic, far more dangerous, have far worse side effects."

"There's not enough research on the benefits," said Dr. Curtis Miyamoto, with the Pennsylvania Medical Society.  He says the Society along with the American Medical Association are opposed to legalizing medical marijuana.

"This should be like any other medication it should go through the rigorous testing process and be proven effective before it get released to the public," said Dr. Miyamoto.

Governor Corbett also opposes the current legislation, but says he would consider a carefully controlled research project.

"Our children are being left to suffer with these conditions, and it just seems cruel.  It's shameful," said Dana.

And torture for the family watching Lorelei slip further away every day.

Senator Leach thinks the bill will be approved in September and that there are enough votes to override an expected veto from the Governor.  Then working out the mechanics of production and distribution could take months, maybe years.

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