Minnesotans Fight For Legalization Of Medical Marijuana
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The fight over legalizing medical marijuana moves to the State Capitol again next month. For some Minnesota families, a cannabis law can’t come soon enough. WCCO shares the battle two Minnesota families are fighting, believing that marijuana is the seed to a new life for their sick kids.
When you have a baby, you measure every month in milestones, but a cruel disorder has cost Wyatt Hauser those moments.
“He’s not talking, he’s not hugging, he’s not blowing us kisses, he’s not smiling at us, he’s not laughing,” Jessica Hauser said.
When he was just 6 months old, Jessica Hauser noticed some strange eye movement in her son. Two months, later doctors had a name for it.
“A devastating diagnosis. We didn’t know how devastating at the time,” Jessica Hauser said.
A rare form of epilepsy called infantile spasms. Wyatt can have up to 100 seizures a day. Difficult to watch, his seizures can last up to a half hour at a time.
“Sometimes you’re just kind of waiting around, staring at him, waiting to count seizures,” Jeremy Hauser said.
The Woodbury family has tried 10 different medications, along with different diets, without seeing much of a change. They think marijuana may offer relief.
“We want it. We need it as an option for our son,” Jessica Hauser said.
Two-hundred miles north in Hibbing, Angie and Josh Weaver have dealt with the same desperation for years.
“We feel that Amelia deserves safe, legal access to the medicine that she needs,” Angie Weaver said.
Once a bright, talkative little girl, Amelia suffered a series of seizures when she was two. She gradually lost her ability to do just about everything.
“You feel like you’ve lost your child in a lot of ways,” Angie Weaver said.
Diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome, another rare form of epilepsy, Amelia will also have dozens of seizures each day.
After seeing what happened to another little girl in Colorado with the very same diagnosis, more than ever, the Weavers want marijuana to be legal in Minnesota.
With the arrival of legalization in Colorado, Charlotte Figi takes a dose of cannabis oil daily. The custom cultivated plant has a high amount of CBD, a compound shown to calm the brain activity that causes seizures. The oil also has a low amount of THC, the marijuana ingredient that makes users high. Charlotte went from having 300 seizures a week to maybe one. The Colorado girl is also walking and talking again.
“It’s our daughter. It’s what our daughter’s going through. They have the exact same story,” Angie Weaver said.
A neurology and pharmacy professor for nearly 40 years at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Ilo Leppik says the science is there to show the power pot can have to control seizures but he says people need to be cautious of its power.
“I would be very careful about pushing it as a miracle cure or pushing it as the answer for epilepsy,” Leppik said.
He believes more study is needed. Right now the 25 medications already on the market for epilepsy show more promise to a greater number of patients.
“It doesn’t mean that everyone’s going to have the same result,” he added.
Leppik thinks the issue has become too politicized and if distributed in a pill form through the regular drug store system, the drug could help some people.
A lot would have to change at the state capitol before that could happen. For years, Minnesota’s law enforcement agencies have opposed legalizing medical marijuana concerned with public safety and drug abuse. Groups also point out that even though marijuana is legal to take for medical reasons in 20 states, the drug still hasn’t been approved for use by national health organizations.
Republican State Representative Bob Barrett from Lindstrom worries a law would make it easier for young people to start smoking pot. While sympathetic to those with chronic illnesses, he considers the current bill bad policy and wants lawmakers to take a step back.
“There are severe negative consequences, especially among our youth who as adults we should be taking care of,” Barrett said.
If it isn’t legalized this session, the Weavers say they will move to Colorado, convinced marijuana will make a difference for their daughter.
“It seems like the only answer as far as I’m concerned. I don’t know what else to try,” Josh Weaver said.
It’s the same step the Hausers will take, starting over in another state, where Wyatt might have the chance to reach more milestones.
“Wyatt is a brave, patient little boy who’s worth fighting for. We’re begging the people who can make this happen, and make a change, that they give us a chance to save our son,” Jessica Hauser said.
Nearly 100 children with epilepsy are now taking that same form of marijuana in Colorado that helped Charlotte Figi. The company selling it says they are all reporting positive results and hundreds of children are now on a waiting list.
A recent poll on the issue in Minnesota showed 76 percent of people polled were in favor of making medical marijuana legal here.