Over a dozen Iowa families gathered behind Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jack Hatch at a news conference today to press for the limited use of medical marijuana for those who suffer from epileptic seizures. Hatch said one of the employees at his real estate development company has a son who suffers from severe seizures.
“It’s the courage of children like Adam and all the children we have here that makes this an easy opportunity for us to go just a little bit further,” Hatch said, his voice shaking with emotion.
Republican Governor Terry Branstad has said he would veto legislation to allow marijuana to be prescribed as medicine.
“I do have empathy for the families that have medical problems, but I also do know we have a significant problem with the abuse of prescription drugs,” Branstad told reporters later this afternoon, and the governor said the marijuana could too easily fall into the hands of those for whom it is not prescribed as a medication.
Todd Omundson of Altoona, the father of an epileptic child, said during the noon-hour news conference that Branstad is just offering “an excuse” rather than a “legitimate” objection.
“Just give medical cannabis a chance to be prescribed on a small basis for certain types illnesses and seizures,” Omundson said. “It isn’t different than any other pain meds that one out of, I don’t know, five or 10 people take daily.”
Mike Heuck of Spencer has a 12-year-old daughter who’ been on anti-seizure medications since she was 17 months old. He’d like her to be able to try medical marijuana.
“This product is not even a smokable product. It’s an oil extract,” Heuck said. “It’s not even in the same realm as the medical marijuana that everybody things about. It’s an oil that comes in a pill.”
April Stumpf of Riverside has a 21-month-old daughter who is taking anti-seizure drugs that carry warnings about kidney and liver damage, as well as loss of her sight for life. She argues marijuana in pill form will be less dangerous for her daughter.
“All of these families, their childrens’ lives have been told that they will be shorter and not necessarily maybe from what they’ve been diagnosed with, but from the effects of the medications they’re taking,” Stumpf said. “And I think that is something that the legislators need to know and understand.”
Stumpf and the other parents support legislation that would allow Iowa doctors to prescribe pills containing an oil derived from marijuana for their epileptic children. And, when they go out of state to get the pills, those epileptic patients and their families would be shielded from prosecution for possessing medical marijuana if the bill becomes law. Governor Branstad said the deadline has passed in the legislature for policy-related bills like that to be considered this year.