Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker interacts with local children at Veterans Terrace Monday after signing a bill that decriminalizes possession of CBD oil, a marijuana derivative that is used to treat seizure disorders. (Photo by Ed Nadolski)

CBD oil law fix caps local family’s long, emotional odyssey

By Ed Nadolski

Editor in Chief

The mix of emotions that churned in the heads and hearts of Tom and Sally Schaeffer Monday had to be disorienting.

There was triumph in knowing a bill they championed had become law. But there was sadness their daughter, Lydia, for whom the original law was named, had not lived long enough to reap its potential benefits.

Tom initially tossed out the word “bittersweet,” but even that seemed inadequate, he said.

After reflecting for a moment, Tom and Sally Schaeffer agreed there was pride and satisfaction in knowing the many hours they put into the fight to legalize CBD oil would benefit countless other families like theirs now and into the future.

And there was comfort in knowing that Lydia, while not there in person, was surely there in spirit.

“I have faith and know my daughter is an angel,” Sally Schaeffer said. “She had my back.”

It was because of the Burlington family – especially Sally Schaeffer’s tireless efforts – that Gov. Scott Walker chose the city as the venue for the bill signing. The local family was joined by several others who have children with special needs in gathering around the governor as he put pen to paper during the event at Veterans Terrace.

In signing Senate Bill 10, Walker created a fix for Lydia’s Law, the 2014 legislation that allowed doctors and pharmacists to dispense cannabidiol (commonly known as CBD oil) as a possible treatment for seizure disorders.

CBD oil is controversial in some sectors because it is derived from marijuana. Even though CBD oil does not create the psychoactive effects of marijuana, the original bill was flawed because it didn’t allow people to possess CBD oil. The Senate amendment, championed in that chamber by Van Wanggaard (R, Mount Pleasant), fixed that flaw.

People may now use the oil for treatment of medical conditions that cause seizures without fear they’ll be arrested for possession of a controlled substance.

In comments following the bill signing, Walker made it clear that Sally Schaeffer was not only the driving force behind the successful legislation, but was also the face similar mothers everywhere.

“It’s a matter of not beating people over the head, but being compelling – being decent, but persistent,” Walker said of Schaeffer’s efforts. “What an incredible testimony to know the perseverance with their faith and kindness to say, ‘Hey, even though Lydia’s not here, we’re going to continue to help inspire other families to see this through.’”

Lydia Schaeffer died in May 2014, the same year the bill that bore her name became law. It took another three years for the flaw in the law to be fixed.

Walker acknowledged Monday that CBD oil’s tie to marijuana was a stumbling block for some legislators and was possibly the reason it took as long as it did to amend the law.

Walker said he doesn’t support widespread legalization of marijuana because he views it as a gateway to other, more harmful drugs.

“It was so important that (the CBD oil amendment) didn’t open the door to that,” he said. “It’s very clear this is for a very specific niche.”

Tom Schaeffer said he is proud of his wife for her determined role in the eventual passage and repair of the law.

“They told Sally it would never get done,” he said. “Sally proved that, from a grassroots effort, it can be done.”

Sally Schaeffer said it was about doing the right thing.

“Personally, I believe, that with support of family and friends, you can make anything happen.”

That, and a lift from the wings of your own little angel, she added.