At 3 months old, Marissa Parsons began having frequent seizures, some lasting a half-hour. For almost two decades, her desperate parents tried drug after drug to treat her rare type of childhood epilepsy, but the medications mostly produced side effects — pancreatitis, hives and extreme drowsiness — and she was frequently hospitalized. Family outings became almost impossible. Eventually, her mother said, Marissa stopped smiling.

Three years ago, Marissa was enrolled in a clinical trial at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, testing a liquid anti-seizure drug made from a component of marijuana. Marissa, who cannot speak and uses a wheelchair, quickly went from eight seizures a day to half that number; these days, the 21-year-old has some weeks in which she doesn’t have any seizures. She routinely goes to her sisters’ baseball games and band concerts. In 2016, she and her family visited Mount Rushmore and the Grand Canyon. Plus, she’s smiling again.

“We can function like a typical family,” said her mother, Ronda Parsons. “That, and her smile, mean the world to me.”

The drug that helped Marissa, called Epidiolex, is on the verge of becoming the first drug approved by the FDA that is derived from marijuana. In April, an advisory committee unanimously recommended approval of the drug for two of the most severe types of childhood epilepsy, and the agency is expected to render its decision by the end of June. The medication is an oral solution containing highly purified cannabidiol, or CBD, which is one of scores of chemicals in the cannabis plant. It contains only trace amounts of the psychoactive element THC, and does not induce euphoria.

For those who have long argued that cannabis offers medical benefits, an FDA approval would be a milestone, “a recognition that the plant is a rich source

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