Five-year-old Cora Vowell has from 9-12 seizures a day. She and her mother, Melissa Vowell, attended a meeting to discuss the legalization of medical marijuana with Times Free Press editors and writers on April 1, 2015.
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Jay Greeson


Cora sat still for about five seconds, her blonde curls bouncing as her blue eyes scanned the room. She was looking for something to color. She snacked on a cookie. She smiled easily and laughed quickly.

The unicorn on her aqua shirt was perfectly matched with the frills and ruffles on her skirt.

She was completely a 5-year-old in every sense, drawing smiles from any parent or everyone who has ever spent time with a precious child at that precious age.

After the smile of familiarity, though, comes the clarity of her helmet. Cora wears a pink, skull-protecting helmet almost all the time. She has to since an accident left her with epilepsy that produces about 10 aggravated seizures a day.

The cocktail of antibiotics she takes leaves her lethargic and groggy. She sleeps more than your dad at Thanksgiving. She has fallen behind other kids her age and is unable to play sports or dance — or live life in a lot of ways — because of the medicinal haze that has become almost as big a hurdle as the epilepsy.

Her family prays for relief, and for one of the relative few times in our society, the government can go a long way to answering that prayer.

Medicinal cannabis oil, a product of marijuana, offers a possible relief for Cora and the rest of the kids who suffer from the two-pronged effects of serious illnesses and the serious medications used to fight them. It could greatly ease their pain and make life beyond the disease much less daunting.

And looking at Cora, it's all-too clear that we are obligated to add any and all weapons in the fight to help sick kids.

Are there questions and policies and red tape to navigate? Sure there are. But for Cora and the countless kids — and elderly with untreatable diseases, too — in a similar state, we owe it to them to figure this out sooner rather than later.

TennCanGrow, an investment group pushing legislation to legalize medicinal cannabis products that will be discussed by Tennessee lawmakers this week, is focused on making that a reality. They came to our newspaper last week armed with doctors and attorneys and public-relations people. They made a great case. They trotted out facts and numbers and testimonials that would make even the harshest critic pause.

The debate lingers about details and detractors.

Yes, the state needs to research the matter and make sure the process is as clear as the joy in Cora's eyes. There are devils in those details, but for the discussion to turn to a diatribe about the levels of marijuana legalization is shortsighted and maybe even cruel.

This is no time for pot jokes. This isn't about Spicoli or Doritos or a quick game of hacky sack by a VW van down by the river.

There are people who could be helped by this now. There are 23 states that already have figured this out and Tennessee should be in the express lane to be No. 24.

And those who are hoping to piggyback this into legalizing marijuana entirely and the semantics involved with that need to stop. Or they need to show up and explain to Cora why we are not exploring every option to help the sick kids in our state.

Is it outside the box, a variation from the traditional line of thinking? Of course it is, but what truly great answer or invention wasn't in the beginning?

Let's pretend that marijuana was discovered by a well-meaning physician rather than someone who learned that burning it and inhaling it would mean you'd get high and hungry and giggle a bunch.

So TennCanGrow brought their heavy hitters and their hard-to-resist arguments to a room full of newspaper people who are supposed to be cynical and doubting and delivered a strong sentiment.

And for all the statements and all the rationalizations and all the promises, their strongest case was Cora, sleeping in the arms of a friend with her pink helmet slightly askew.

She wants to color and snack and laugh. She's 5, after all, and her mother, Melissa, teared up when recalling the conversations with her daughter about "making the pain go away." Everyone who knows Cora wants her to grow and laugh and live as pain-free as possible.

And if that path is potentially lined with medicinal cannabis, then we should do whatever we can to make it happen.

Jay Greeson's column will appear on Page A2 on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays. His sports columns are scheduled for Tuesdays and Fridays. You can read his online column the 5-at-10 Monday through Friday at after 10 a.m. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter at @ jgreesontfp.