Khalene Hassler and Charles Hopkins don’t want to leave their home state of Kansas, but they feel they have no choice.
Their 16-month-old son Brenden is in desperate need of marijuana.
Since shortly after birth, Brenden has had frequent seizures, sometimes as many as 150 a day. Walls and floors of the couple’s south Salina home are padded to prevent Brenden from smashing his head on the surfaces.
Several pharmaceutical drugs have been prescribed for Brenden but either have not stopped the seizures or have been harmful to her son, Hassler said.
“One medication kept him from moving at all,” she said. “He could roll over, and that’s about it. He could barely lift his head. But since we stopped it, he’s able to crawl again.”
A miracle oil
Hassler and Hopkins read about a young girl named Charlotte Figi, who also had severe epilepsy. Charlotte’s condition significantly improved after she was given a thick, amber-colored oil extract high in cannabidiol, or CBD, that was taken from cannabis plants.
The strain, also known as Alepsia, removes most of the tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that causes pot smokers to get high.
The CBD chemical has been shown to have medicinal properties that quiet the excessive electrical and chemical activity in the brain that causes seizures.
Charlotte’s condition improved so rapidly after taking the extract — which is not smoked but is generally administered orally under the tongue or in a drink — that the strain’s distributors, the Stanley brothers of Colorado Springs, named it Charlotte’s Web.
Realm of Caring
Inspired by the success of their medicinal marijuana business, the Stanleys started the Realm of Caring Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides cannabis to adults and children suffering from epilepsy and other diseases including cancer, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease who can’t afford this treatment.
A month’s supply could cost between $150 and $300 and is not covered by insurance. But for Hassler and Hopkins, it could be the treatment that allows their son to have a normal life.
But marijuana in any form, medicinal or otherwise, is illegal in the state of Kansas. So the couple feel they have no choice but to pack up Brenden and Khalene’s other children — Taysia Hassler, 8, Desean Hassler, 6, and Ayden Hassler, 5 — and move to Colorado.
They are among dozens of families from states not allowing medical marijuana who have become like the Joad family in John Steinbeck’s classic “The Grapes of Wrath.” Only instead of leaving dust bowl-stricken farms in hope of a new start in California, these families are leaving their homes and families for hope of medical treatment in the “promised land” of Colorado.
“All our family, all our friends are in (Salina),” Hopkins said. “We’ve been here our entire lives. Now, we’re being completely uprooted.”
Hassler said it’s the right move for her family, no matter what the outcome.
“It’s got to be better than what they’re doing here, which is nothing,” she said. “It’s worth it to give our son some kind of life.”
Even if the family moves to Colorado by August as planned, it still could be a long time before Brenden can be treated with Charlotte’s Web, if at all.
“We have to establish residency in Colorado, and then get a state-approved medical marijuana card,” said Hassler, who plans to initially go to Colorado with Hopkins in late May.
If the medical marijuana card is approved, she said, Brenden can be put on a waiting list for Charlotte’s Web treatment, which is available in a very limited supply.
“They plant twice a year, in October and April, and only plant a certain amount depending on how many are on the waiting list,” Hassler said. “If it’s planted in October, Brenden is not going to get it until March at the earliest. I’m not even sure how long the waiting list is; I’m just praying.”
Hassler and Hopkins are frustrated at what they feel are the misconceptions of medical marijuana, especially an extract like Charlotte’s Web.
“A lot of people don’t understand that you don’t smoke this,” Hassler said. “It’s a pasty substance, like a thick liquid. There are a lot of compounds in hemp plants, and it’s the combination of all of them that makes kids get better, especially those with epilepsy.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is hesitant to approve medical marijuana because of lack of research on its long-term effects. Officials say there is insufficient medical evidence and no sound scientific studies to support the medical use of marijuana and more research and clinical tests are needed to determine its effectiveness, if any.
Hassler said she doesn’t want to toy with her son’s well-being while waiting for slow-moving government officials to decide what’s best for her child.
“If it’s going to make our child’s life better, I don’t see why they don’t do it,” she said. “If the higher-ups had a kid with epilepsy, they’d be all over it.”
Kansas for Change
David Mulford, treasurer of Kansas for Change, a nonprofit grassroots organization dedicated to changing marijuana laws in Kansas, has counseled other families who have loved ones with epilepsy or cancer and has seen firsthand how desperate they are for advice and help.
“If there’s a choice between a child suffering or getting relief, they will do whatever it takes to help their child,” said Mulford, who is based in Hutchinson. “They need to look at this the right way, talk to a doctor out there, find out the facts and get on a program.”
By the middle of May, Mulford said, a support link will be available on the Kansas for Change website at kansasforchange.com. It will be designed to support parents leaving Kansas for Colorado by supplying them with information that may include medical dispensaries, physicians and moving challenges.
“We’ll also let them know about the research on other strains out there,” he said. “Charlotte’s Web has the most media coverage, but there are other strains being made.”
Mulford, who has been using medical marijuana for decades for debilitating spasms, said some states are close to legalizing marijuana for medical use but are hampered by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
“These old marijuana laws are outdated and draconian,” he said. “In the meantime, people are forced to go through mind-boggling pain and discomfort. They’re in need of guidance and support, and that’s what we’re here for. But it’s a real David and Goliath battle.”
Hassler and Hopkins are cautiously optimistic about their move. Hopkins, who works a construction job in Salina, said he has experience and skills that should land him a good job. Hassler is certain her children will make a quick adjustment to their new environment.
What disturbs Hassler is that if and when Brenden starts taking Charlotte’s Web, he can’t be brought back to Kansas because of its illegality in the state, “unless we bring him without his medication,” she said.
That means anyone from their home state who wants to see Brenden will have to make the trip to Colorado, which she said will be difficult for some, including Brenden’s grandparents.
“It’s so disappointing because everything we have and love is here,” she said. “But we can’t bring Brenden back unless they legalize it, which I don’t see happening anytime soon.”
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Aricle and images courtesy of: Salina.com
POLICE AND THE DA SHOULD TRY LISTENING TO THE VOTERS FOR A CHANGE.
April 19, 2014
When Massachusetts voters passed a ballot initiative decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana last Election Day, their message was clear: Yes, marijuana should still be illegal, but the penalties for small marijuana infractions are much too harsh.
It should have come as no surprise how easily the proposal to make adult possession of an ounce of marijuana a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine rather than a criminal violation passed.
Voters understood that harsher penalties for small marijuana violations do not result in lower marijuana use rates or lower crime rates in any way. They knew that 11 other states had already established policies decriminalizing marijuana – most in place for decades – with no more marijuana-related problems than neighboring states that arrest such users.
Their sensible assumptions were affirmed by a 2008 World Health Organization report concluding that while the United States has among the toughest marijuana laws on either side of the Atlantic, we have by far the highest marijuana use rates. In fact, our marijuana use rates are double what they are in the Netherlands, where the sale and adult possession of marijuana are legally tolerated.
The only thing arresting smalltime marijuana violators accomplished was wasting tax dollars – about $29 million a year in Massachusetts, by Harvard economist Dr. Jeffrey Miron’s calculations. Oh, that and saddling ordinary citizens, young people and minorities in particular, with arrest records that could follow them their entire lives.
So, despite the way it was portrayed in much of the press, Nov. 4’s vote wasn’t a referendum on whether marijuana should be legal. It wasn’t a referendum on whether marijuana use should be tolerated, much less encouraged. And it certainly wasn’t a referendum on state law enforcement’s competence or fairness in enforcing existing marijuana laws.
That is, until Massachusetts’ law enforcement leadership turned it into one. In what was either a stunning public relations miscalculation or a profound misunderstanding of the proposal, Bay State police chiefs and district attorneys decided not only to oppose the measure, but also to exhaust their credibility trying to defeat it.
Their campaign was full of hyperbole and contradiction. Decriminalizing marijuana would encourage marijuana use, especially among children, they said, while ignoring the lower marijuana use rates in neighboring New York, a decriminalized state since the late ’70s. Decriminalizing would send the message that marijuana use is ok, they argued, while at the same time insisting that street cops rarely bothered with low-level marijuana users anyway. The process of fining and releasing marijuana violators would be too complicated for cops, they said, although officers apparently had no difficulty arresting, booking, trying, convicting and then fining them.
And so on. Not surprisingly, Massachusetts voters rebuffed law enforcement’s dire warnings and passed the measure with 65 percent of the vote, more than President Obama, who carried the state easily, received.
Also not surprisingly, nearly three months after the law was implemented, none of the opponents’ predictions of chaos and wanton drug abuse have come to pass.
But law enforcement leaders, having just embarrassed themselves at the polls with their “reefer madness” opposition to a modest, uncontroversial adjustment to marijuana penalties, are determined to exacerbate the damage they’ve done to their credibility. Rather than accept that the voters were right on this one, law enforcement officials are attempting to exploit a provision in the new law that allows localities to pass ordinances enhancing penalties for public marijuana use.
The provision was intended for the unlikely possibility that some communities might find that the prospect of a $100 fine and confiscation of contraband to be an inadequate deterrent to public marijuana use.
Rather than respect the will of the voters and acknowledge that the new law has in no way encouraged public marijuana use, those who originally opposed the initiative are rushing to subvert it through the public use provision. Among these opponents are Cape Cod District Attorney Michael O’Keefe and police chiefs in nine Cape towns.
While the details are sketchy right now, and the effects such proposals will have on the letter and spirit of Massachusetts’ decrim law unclear, O’Keefe and crew should learn from their recent mistakes and show some faith in their constituents’ judgment.
So far, we’ve seen more of the same nonsense from them that we saw before the law passed. You’d think to hear these officials talk that there’s an epidemic of marijuana users taking to our parks to smoke marijuana, happy to pay the existing $100 fine and lose their stash for the privilege.
Once again, these law enforcement officials are playing games. Once again, it’s up to the voters to call them on their childish nonsense.
Article originally from: Click Here for MPP.
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WASHINGTON — The Obama administration would be willing to work with Congress if lawmakers want to take marijuana off the list of what the federal government considers the most dangerous drugs, Attorney General Eric Holder said Friday.
“We’d be more than glad to work with Congress if there is a desire to look at and reexamine how the drug is scheduled, as I said there is a great degree of expertise that exists in Congress,” Holder said during a House Appropriations Committee hearing. “It is something that ultimately Congress would have to change, and I think that our administration would be glad to work with Congress if such a proposal were made.”
Several members of Congress have called on the administration to downgrade cannabis on its own without waiting for congressional action. Under the federal Controlled Substances Act, the attorney general has the authority to “remove any drug or other substance from the schedules if he finds that the drug or other substance does not meet the requirements for inclusion in any schedule.” Holder didn’t indicate Friday that he would be willing to do that unilaterally.
Although there haven’t been any documented cases of deaths from overdosing on marijuana, the federal government treats it as a Schedule I drug with a “high potential for abuse,” along with heroin, LSD and Ecstasy.
Re-categorizing marijuana would not legalize the drug under federal law, but it couldmake research into marijuana’s medical benefits much easier and allow marijuana businesses to take tax deductions.
Several Republican lawmakers at the hearing questioned Holder’s decision to allow Colorado and Washington to legalize and regulate marijuana and to take the states’ actions into consideration when prioritizing federal marijuana prosecutions. But Holder said that he was “not sure that you’re going to see a huge difference” between the cases the Justice Department was bringing before and after guidance went out to U.S. attorneys on which cases to prioritize.
“We’re not blazing a new trail,” Holder said of the decision to prosecute only certain cases based on the department’s limited resources, noting that much of marijuana law enforcement happens on the state and local levels.
Any move to reschedule marijuana would probably face resistance from the Drug Enforcement Administration, which Holder oversees. DEA chief Michele Leonhart said this week that the growing acceptance of marijuana only makes her agents “fight harder.”
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