Michael J. Bowen

You may have heard about a man having a grand mal seizure on the Florida Senate floor two weeks ago.

That was me.

I am a die-hard conservative activist.

I support Floridians’ now-constitutional right to access medical marijuana.

And I’m a patient.

I was diagnosed with epilepsy at age 13 and like most went through the brutal process of trying numerous barbiturates until finding the right ‘cocktail’ that worked. Every epileptic case is unique and requires a custom treatment. In my case, it took 600 mg of downers per day to control my seizures; affecting my motor skills, thinking and lifestyle.

Needless to say, it was a life changing event.

Thirty-four years later, my epilepsy is intractable. That means big pharma drugs no longer work to prevent my seizures. After a year of research, my wife convinced me to try CBD oil, which has virtually no THC. It works.

After months of testing dosages, we have reduced the severity and quantity of my seizures dramatically. CBD oil also works as a “rescue” medication that can stop a seizure within seconds, and it is the only medicine that helps my epilepsy.

One in 26 people have epilepsy; more than Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, Autism and Cerebral Palsy combined. Every year over 54,000 people will die as a result of epileptic seizures — the fourth leading killer in Florida alone. Epileptics like myself literally wake up and thank God for another day.

Medical marijuana is helping ensure that I get the chance to wake up every day.

It is hard to adequately explain what having a seizure is like.  For me, I get an “aura” seconds before going into full convulsions.  When I come out of it, I can’t tell you my name, my wife’s name, where I am, or even what year it is.  All of this comes back over the next hour or so.  I do, however, recognize people.

The pain is extraordinary. Imagine your hardest workout and multiply that by 10.

After a seizure, sheer exhaustion puts me to sleep for days. After the last time — at the Senate committee — I bit my tongue so hard I could barely talk for a week.

Three weeks ago, as a member of the board of directors for the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida, we held a “walk the talk” awareness event. There were dozens of kids walking who suffered from epilepsy.

Four families walked in-memoriam of children who had died.

It was truly emotional and steeled my resolve to fight for those kids.

I tell you this so you will understand the true medical need for cannabis.  It is incomprehensible to think we make opiate painkillers more accessible that a natural healthy alternative.

House Bill 1397 — even in its amended form — is an awful attempt to make medical marijuana legal in name only.

HB 1397 is the equivalent of Obamacare:  many have health insurance, but outrageous deductibles prevent most from getting actual health care.

It’s a disaster for patients.

I support Senate Bill 406, aka the Bradley bill. It’s not perfect, but a step in the right direction.

In the final legislation, I would like to see more competition and the decriminalization of public application by caregivers.  It should never be a crime to save a life. Period.

I was a senior adviser for Donald Trump’s campaign in Florida, and proud of the result. We won with 49 percent of the vote in November. In comparison, a whopping 71 percent of the voters told our legislature to legalize medical cannabis.

I am very disturbed that the will of the people is largely being ignored.

I can assure lawmakers that, regardless of party affiliation, if you vote against the will of the people, we will work get you out of office.

My wife and I, along with numerous other patients and caregivers will be back in Tallahassee this week to continue to fight for this lifesaving medicine.

I would urge anyone reading this to go to identify your representative and senator and remind them of their duty.

Hurry up! Session ends this Friday.

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Michael J. Bowen is CEO of Coalition For a Strong America  (www.coalitionforastrongamerica.com) and a board member of the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida. He is a patient, not a criminal.

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