Medical cannabis advocates continue to press Iowa legislators

'She wouldn't be alive today without it'

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DES MOINES — Rachael Selmeski has witnessed the positive impact medical cannabis can have on children with debilitating conditions. She said it has saved her young daughter’s life.

The Iowa native said it is unfortunate she had to move to Colorado in order for her daughter to realize those benefits.

Selmeski, who is from Denver, Iowa, and now lives in Colorado, was among the roughly 100 Iowans who attended a rally Tuesday at the Iowa Capitol to urge lawmakers to expand the state’s limited medical cannabis program.

Current law permits Iowa residents to use cannabidiol, a derivative of the marijuana plant, to treat children with epileptic seizures. But Iowans must obtain the product from other states that produce cannabidiol, and few sell to out-of-state residents.

Advocates want Iowa to permit the production and dispensation of cannabidiol and to expand the list of ailments permitted for treatment.

“I see it firsthand. I see all these cases that were spoke about (at Tuesday’s rally). I see people that have had to become refugees of Colorado because there are some states that don’t quite get the law right, or they don’t act on it,” Selmeski said. “We see friends that are having tremendous success, and I want it for our friends here (in Iowa.)”

Rachael’s daughter Maggie suffers from seizures, so in 2013, the Selmeskis moved from Tennessee to Colorado, which in 2012 legalized marijuana for medicinal and recreational use.

Since starting medical cannabis treatments, Maggie, who will turn four-years-old in May, has gone from more than 500 seizures per day to an average of 20 to 30 per day.

“I can tell you beyond the shadow of a doubt she wouldn’t be alive today without it,” Rachael said as Maggie sat in a stroller nearby. “And we didn’t have time to wait for legislators to pass it. So that’s one of the reasons we’re out there (in Colorado.)”

The Democratic-controlled Iowa Senate in 2015 approved legislation expanding the state’s medical cannabis program. That bill allows for the production and dispensation of cannabidiol and expands the ailments it can be used to treat.

The Republican-controlled Iowa House did not act on that bill. This year, House Republican Peter Cownie, R-West Des Moines, introduced legislation that would allow for the production and dispensation of cannabidiol but contains a shorter list of treatable ailments.

Rep. Tom Sands, R-Wapello, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee that must next approve Cownie’s bill, said Tuesday that no decision has been made whether to advance it. Sands said he has not yet discussed the bill with House leaders who would decide whether the bill would be debated on the House floor.

Cownie said he will continue to push the bill.

“We’ll never give up,” he said during the rally. “And we will succeed.”

Multiple speakers at the rally told personal stories of how medical cannabis has helped themselves or loved ones or they think they or loved ones would benefit from medical cannabis treatments.

Dr. Charles Goldman, a Des Moines surgeon, said at the rally that most physicians support “sensible” medical cannabis programs because the product “alleviates suffering.”

Multiple speakers referenced a recent Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll that showed nearly 4 out of 5 Iowans favor the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

“Tell legislators it is imperative that you follow the will of the people,” said Michelle Richardson of Norwalk, who suffers from multiple sclerosis.

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