Medical Marijuana: Stories of Hope
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (CBS 2/FOX 28) – If Governor Terry Branstad signs the cannabis oil bill, Iowa will become the 22nd state along with the District of Columbia to legalize some form of medical marijuana.
Eight other states have pending legislation adding to the growing recognition that a longtime controversial plant does have medicinal benefits. And while Iowa’s bill holds promise for those suffering with
chronic epilepsy it is very narrow.
This exclusive CBS 2 News report begins not in the Corridor but in Colorado where more than 200 families have moved to get access to cannabis oil to treat their children’s epileptic seizures.
Shawn and Rachael Selmeski, originally from Swisher, are part of that group. “Before medical marijuana,” says Shawn of his two year old daughter, Maggie, “she would be awake probably two hours a day, if that.” (Now) She’s much more active, movement wise.” Adds Rachael, “Before we moved, anytime she moved it was probably a seizure, whereas now she’s trying to move her arms, she’s trying to move her legs.
We’ll put her down on the floor and she’ll rotate and get to a new position.” In just five months, the Selmeskis have seen Maggie’s seizures cut by a third and they’re weaning her from addictive pharmaceuticals
as they give her cannabis oil three times a day. “Two years ago we would have said medical marijuana is a joke, people just want it to get access to it,” says Rachael. “But we didn’t do our research and we were
ignorant on it. (Now) we have a different opinion.”
Three year old Braedy Grittmann would normally have a couple seizures every day but since his parents moved to Colorado from Tama, he’s had only three in two weeks. Seven year old Maddy from North Carolina went from one-hundred seizures a day to twenty.
Back in Iowa, scientific testimony during the legislative session explains why. Frank Caligiuri, a Pharmacy Professor at Drake University said, “In our bodies we actually have an endogenous system called the
endocannabinoid system, named so because we have receptors that are specific for the compounds within the cannabis plant and believe it or not our body actually produces two compounds that are identical to those
that are in the cannabis plant.” Caligiuri says people with severe epilepsy simply can’t produce enough of their own cannabinoids to overcome their seizures which is why they reach for the plant.
Dr. Thomas Carlstrom, a retired neurosurgeon from West Des Moines supports that finding. “Marijuana works to treat seizures. Smoking marijuana works to treat seizures and the other cannabinoids work also,” says Carlstrom. “(And) For people who say, ‘we don’t have any good idea on the side effects cannabis,’ well, we do know some things about it and we know that it is, in many cases, a better drug than the ones that can be prescribed.”
But there remains a significant roadblock with Iowa’s new legislation. Because it only allows for possession, Iowans have to travel all the way to Nevada or Rhode Island to get the oil. Colorado, like the majority of
medical marijuana states, requires residency for purchase. “It would be very beneficial to be able to make it here in the state,” says Carlstrom. That’s why Senator Joe Bolkom of Iowa City says an interim study committee is exploring a larger program. “Part of that study,” says Bolkom, “is going to be how do we produce that medicine safely and securely here in Iowa.”
In our next report on Thursday, CBS 2 will show you how it’s done in Colorado and share with you other Iowa voices calling for prescription pot for their medical conditions. Be sure to watch CBS 2 News Ten at 10.
Also, there is a Facebook page called “The Faces of Cannabis” which features the individual stories of the children you saw in this report. You can find it in the News Links section of this website.