If you missed the medical marijuana discussion on Iowa Public Radio’s River to River program this past Monday, you can either click here to listen to a recording of the show or follow WeedPress on Facebook for transcriptions of the show.
Here’s Rachael Selmiski’s interview. Follow her Facebook page Miracle 4 Maggie to find out how 17 month old Maggie responds to low-THC cannabis oil.
Ben Kieffer: Logan Edwards is with us, an Iowa Marine Corps veteran from Davenport. He served in Iraq, a tour of duty in 2007 and 2008. As you just heard, has found relief from post traumatic stress disorder in medical marijuana. That’s the topic of our program today. 20 states have legalized medical marijuana. Should Iowa do the same? Perhaps you have a personal story, a personal medical condition that you’ve used marijuana for. 1-866-780-9100. River to River at Iowa Public Radio dot org. We’re also on Facebook, or you can tweet us @iprtalk.
Logan Edwards, please stay with us, we’ll get back to you in just a moment, because we want to learn now from Rachael Selmiski, a native Iowan joining us by phone. Rachael, hi are you there?
BK: Hi. You were a native Iowan, where are we reaching you today?
Rachael: We’re actually in Colorado, in Denver.
BK: Ok. And you are the mother of a 17 year old baby, daughter Maggie?
Rachael: She’s actually 17 months old.
BK: Sorry, sorry sorry.
Rachael: That’s ok.
BK: But anyway, you’re out in Colorado, and actually, you’re in Colorado because Colorado laws are different, and allow you to treat your baby with cannabis. How? What is the condition, first of all, I guess we’d better start there.
Rachael: At six weeks old, she began having full tonic-clonic or grand mal seizures. And we went through a host of hospital stays. Numerous anti-convulsants, IV therapies that wouldn’t work. Then we thought, we were doing something called manual therapy, we thought we were seeing some good progress, which I think her body was, but then she developed something called infantile spasms. Which are real brief spasms, basically a generalized seizure. Between that and mild clonic jerks, which are another form of seizures, she has over 500 a day –
BK: What do they look like? What does it look like, when you observe her face, and then she has a seizure?
Rachael: So, with the infantile spasms, it looks like a startle response, and her eyes kind of do a really quick roll. And then, it’s very brief, but every time it’s her brain basically short circuiting, and it completely stunts growth development. And actually, she’s even – I mean, we didn’t have much progress that we were able to make – but she’s actually regressed since this started as well. She’s actually 18 months old, and she’s at a 3 to 4 month old neurodevelopment age.
BK: We want to talk about treatment with cannabis in just a moment. Before that treatment, what sort of treatment did she get from conventional medicine?
Rachael: We had, she’s gone through six different anticonvulsants, at one point actually this time last year she was on four at once. And they’re all sedating medicines. So, they maybe, they’re trying to slow the seizure activity down, but obviously it’s not effective. It’s also slowing all the rest of her systems down. So right now, she’s on three anticonvulsants still. One, I nearly had to sign my life away, that she would lose her vision. And then, just the side effects, the lists are exhaustive of the damage that can be caused by these anticonvulsants.
BK: So you have tried, you’re out in Colorado, where, cannabis, marijuana is now legal. Is there a certain type of oil treatment you’ve been using for Maggie? Tell us about that.
Rachael: So there’s a specific strain that has only been around for a little while. It’s extremely high in CBD and low in THC.
BK: The THC, just to be clear, is what makes people high, right?
Rachael: Mm-hmm. So that’s what people look for with the psychoactive effects, and actually, in the recreational realm, people are trying to grow it higher and higher for higher THC. The oil Maggie is getting is very low in THC and high in the CBD. And I know people have presented me with synthetic forms, but actually the whole plant is very beneficial. The THC can be, sometimes, the redheaded step child of that, but really, it has purpose – appetite stimulant, pain reducer, and things like that. So I, that still is a vital component and compound of her actual oil. But what she gets – that plant oil is extracted. Where we get it from is all organically grown, it’s tested in the plant form for solvents, pesticides, mold – and then it’s also tested in the oil form for those things. And then we have a printout of the levels of the different cannabinoids in her oil, and we give it to her through an oral syringe, just like we do all the rest of her medicines.
BK: Ok, so it’s just like a medicine, like an oil she’s drinking?
BK: What difference has it made? You’ve been at it for just a couple weeks, two or three weeks, something like that?
Rachael: Mm-hmm. She’s been at it for about two and a half weeks right now. And we intentionally started very slow, and are going very very slow with her. There’s a delicate balance of trying to wean her off of her other anticonvulsants. And one of the side effects, initially, is that it can magnify some of the anticonvulsants, so trying to get those out of her system will actually prove to be more beneficial. But right off the bat, just her alertness, her awareness of her surroundings and – and we’re talking about an 18 month old that can’t hold her head up, can’t see very well, doesn’t necessarily know where she’s at –
BK: What about the seizures? Have they lasted in intensity or number?
Rachael: At this point we don’t notice a direct correlation with some lessening, but there’s a holistic effect of letting it build up in her body as well. One thing we have seen, as Logan said as well, she definitely has the munchies. Her appetite has increased. And, not that it’s majorly newsworthy, but her elimination is tremendous. And anyone that knows, dealing with sedative medicines, that the digestive system – it slows everything down, and once you do that, you just become toxic. So that is a battle we deal with constantly, and the fact that she’s going to the bathroom everyday is a huge success in our department.
BK: Rachael Selmiski is with us, a native Iowan. Mother of a 17 month old baby with epilepsy, a severe form of epilepsy, and is living now in Colorado. I want you to stay with us Rachael, but answer this briefly, are you in Colorado – I mean, if Iowa’s laws were different in terms of medical uses of cannabis, would you be living here with your family?
Rachael: We would definitely reassess where we’re at. We live each day, seeing what each day holds, so when that becomes available, that is definitely an option, so definitely. The other thing is visiting family. At this point, we can’t leave the state of Colorado so Maggie’s relationship with her family –
BK: It would be illegal for you to have, possess that oil in Iowa?
Rachael: The minute we cross over the state lines of Colorado we become criminals. It’s a Schedule I substance. And then it’s child abuse on top of that, that we are giving it to our child.
BK: Ok. Joining us now, Dr. Steve Jenison, he’s an Iowa native and a graduate of the University of Iowa College of Medicine. Dr. Jenison, welcome.