There is no 'slippery slope' for medical cannabis

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With Iowa’s underage and binge drinking exceeding national averages and overdoses from prescription drugs near all time highs, Iowa lawmakers fear that legalizing medical cannabis is a “slippery slope” to harder drug use and say that the medical cannabis intended for children like my 4-year-old son with intractable epilepsy, would end up in the “wrong hands”.

According to a 2016 document titled “Drug Trends in Iowa” from the Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy, 50 percent of Iowans use alcohol making it the “drug of choice” and between 72 — 82.1 out of 100 Iowans have pain killer prescriptions. Yet, our state continues to lag behind in helping Iowa’s most medically complex individuals.

In states with medical cannabis laws, opiate abuse actually declines. According to a study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine in October 2016, opiate-related deaths decreased by 33 percent within six years in states that legalized cannabis from 1999-2010. According to the “Healthy Kids Colorado Survey” (conducted by the Colorado Department of Health), teen marijuana use has actually stayed flat and is just below the national average. In fact, 62 percent of middle and high school students in CO say they have never used marijuana at all.

With the 2014 Medical Cannabidiol Bill set to repeal on July 1, 2017, I worry that my son’s medicine will be stripped away in fear of the “what ifs” vs the reality that many sick and suffering Iowans are out of options. Our doctors are recommending cannabis and our lawmakers are standing in the way.

With Medicaid services being cut and the possibility of my son’s medicine being repealed before his 5th birthday, I am terrified of what the future holds for my son. My son has a rare gene mutation that caused him to have epilepsy, autistic-like behaviors, self-harming behaviors, the inability to speak, fused kidneys, an intellectual disability and a rather lengthy list of symptoms due to UBE2A Deficiency Syndrome.

Before Cannabis — my son was a regular at the Emergency Rooms and Urgent Care Clinics. We had multiple hospital stays annually with lengthy (and very expensive) stays at out-of-state specialty hospitals. Not to mention the cost of his anti-epileptic drugs which led to increased hospital stays, subspecialty clinic visits and repeat follow-ups for seizure related issues.

After cannabis, my son is going on 600 days seizure-free. He hasn’t had an ambulance ride or a hospital stay due to an emergency since 2015. We have been able to wean him 100 percent off the dangerous anti-epileptic pharmaceuticals and he is thriving on medical cannabis oil thanks to the Legislature that put the 2014 Medical Cannabidiol Bill into place.

Instead of looking at what could go wrong, our lawmakers need to look at what could go right. Iowa’s lawmakers could make a huge impact on Opioid related deaths by putting a good medical cannabis program into place. They could make the lives of Iowa’s sick and suffering immensely better by giving us a usable medical cannabis program (in Iowa for Iowans) and they may even reduce the cost of Medicaid, if my son’s experience is any indication as to what the “side effects” of cannabis are.

My son’s condition has no cure, but cannabis has changed his life. I thank the Iowa Legislature for allowing my son this gift. He’s finally able to be a little boy! He is in an inclusive classroom with a 1:1 aide, he is learning and enjoying being around his typical peers, his seizures have subsided giving him an opportunity to heal and learn. I am grateful for all these changes and cherish them every single day.

Please don’t let the Medical Cannabidiol Bill expire and leave families like mine in the cold with no new legislation. Our loved one’s lives matter, too.

• Erin Miller is a wife, mother and proponent for medical cannabis. She blogs about her family at http://ourabrammayhem.weebly.com

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