Last month, my family had the opportunity to meet with U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley. It was an honor to speak with our Senator from Iowa, but the meeting also had very high stakes for my family: Without his support of medical marijuana, my son’s life could be at risk.
My 3-year-old son Abram has an extremely rare genetic mutation that causes him to have seizures. He has tried taking prescribed anti-seizure drugs, but all of them worsened his condition. Finally, after the recommendation of Abram’s neurologist in June 2015, we decided to try Cannabidiol (CBD): a nonpsychoactive marijuana oil. The result? Abram has been seizure-free ever since. He is progressing in therapy and is hitting his development goals. However, by providing my son with medicine that ended his seizures, I am a criminal in the eyes of the federal law.
This is where our meeting with Senator Grassley comes in: Not only is he our elected representative from Iowa, but he is the Chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary in the U.S. Senate and could have a huge impact for families like mine. We need him and his influence to bring the CARERS Act (Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act) to a vote in the Senate. The bill would, among other important policies, give states the right to set their own medical marijuana laws. Even when individual states pass medical marijuana laws that can help children like Abram, families like mine are still at risk of being prosecuted by the federal government at any point.
Abram got the chance to meet Senator Grassley, and I was able to explain the crucial importance of medical marijuana and the CARERS Act. I showed the Senator before and after images of Abram (taking prescription drugs vs. after he switched to CBD). The Senator’s eyes widened, noting “You really can see a difference, can’t you!” Unfortunately, Senator Grassley does not (yet!) support the CARERS Act and the expansion of medical marijuana. He is worried that the U.S. could end up with 50 different medical marijuana laws if every state can set its own policy. Yet, the uniformity that Senator Grassley feels we need already has been broken by the fact that 23 states and Washington, D.C. all have different forms of marijuana legalization or decriminalization. Families like mine just need our children to receive lifesaving medication without the fear of prosecution.
The Senator also shared his concern regarding the health risks of medical marijuana. However, many different research studies show the beneficial effects of marijuana (with little or no side effects) on many illnesses ranging from epilepsy to PTSD to Crohn’s disease. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has stated that Cannabinoids are safe and non-toxic up to 700mg (For reference, Abram only needs a 0.10ml dose twice daily to be 100 percent free from seizures and he suffers no side effects). Other government and independent research of medical marijuana demonstrates similar findings about the low risks and huge benefits of medical marijuana. Senator Grassley also spoke about the need for research and an FDA process. While I agree that more research needs to be done, such a process could take more than ten years and billions of dollars. In the meantime, children like Abram continue to suffer and families like mine continue to worry about federal prosecution. The CARERS Act would protect us in the short term and would allow for research.
It was an honor to meet Senator Grassley and have him listen to our story. I hope that he and his colleagues realize that for so many of us, marijuana is simply medicine. Current laws rob seriously ill children and adults of a chance at life. We are not criminals; we are just parents and family members trying to help our loved ones. Is that so wrong?
• Erin Miller is an Iowa native and the mother of a medical marijuana user. She blogs about her family at http://ourabrammayhem.weebly.com