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A Dose Of Medical Marijuana

February 26, 2014, 10:00 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

A Dose Of Medical Marijuana

Marijuana has always been something parents try to keep away from their kids.

"Neither Jim or I have even smoked a cigarette in our lifetime so definitely not marijuana or anything like that; it would go around our beliefs to do something like that," Heather Johnson said.

Jim and Heather Johnson of Luverne, Minnesota are hoping medical marijuana will soon be available for their four-year-old daughter Luella.

"Medical marijuana is our best shot at getting seizure control that's available in the U.S. right now," Jim Johnson said.

Luella has Dravet syndrome, a severe and rare form of epilepsy.

"The prognosis is not good. There are just not any great treatment options for it," Jim Johnson said.

Dravet syndrome causes seizures and developmental disabilities. The seizures can be so severe they could even cause death.

Luella Johnson started having seizures when she was nine months old.

"There's no constant with Dravet syndrome. She could have a really bad seizure and it could change her whole outlook on where she's going," Heather Johnson said.

Currently, Luella takes several medications, including Stiripentol which is not FDA approved and imported from Europe through a pharmacy in New York City.

The Johnson's would like to try another drug that is not FDA approved but is available right here in the United States. It's called 'Charlotte's Web', a liquid form of marijuana that can be given to children and has proven successful in stopping seizures.

"I've looked at it more and it just is amazing how effective, how frequently it works and how effective it is when it does work," Jim Johnson said.

'Charlotte's Web' was developed in Colorado and is named after a five-year-old girl who has Dravet syndrome and suffered 300 seizures a week. After she started taking the liquid medical marijuana she only had one seizure a week.

"It's actually a form of medical marijuana that's very high in non-psychoactive component called CBD and very low in the THC, which is the psychoactive component. So, it would not be getting her high. She wouldn't smoke it. She'd just be having less seizures," Jim Johnson said.

Right now, it's not available in Minnesota because medical marijuana is not legal there. That could soon change. Minnesota lawmakers will be debating the issue during the current legislative session.

A Saint Cloud State University poll last fall found that 76-percent of Minnesotans support medical marijuana but the main opposition has come from law enforcement.

"To my knowledge the FDA has not approved marijuana for medical use and until they do its medical quackery in my opinion," Pipestone County Sheriff Dan Delaney said.

Delaney is a member of the Minnesota Sheriff's Association which is opposed to the legislation.

"Regulating it is the main concern and we have prescription drugs falling into the wrong hands at this point right now. It's a huge problem. Then to add this; this is a scheduled narcotic the state of Minnesota has been trying to keep out of the hands of young adults and children for several years," Delaney said.

The proposed legislation would allow possession of two-and-a-half ounces of marijuana and would allow for the cultivation of plants in Minnesota.

"It's a worrisome process that's going on right now. We have some 21 states in the United States that have already approved medical marijuana, so there are options out there for people that want to use it for medical purposes. I don't want to see it here in Minnesota," Delaney said.

Governor Mark Dayton wants supporters and law enforcement to reach a compromise on medical marijuana and recent reports indicate authorities may be open to supporting a more narrow piece of legislation which would only allow medical marijuana extracts like 'Charlotte's Web.'

The Johnson's are hopeful.

"There's a lot of misinformation and ignorance out there. They don't realize that medical marijuana is real medicine and real effective medicine. Once people realize that they support that," Jim Johnson said.

"It's been so effective for so many kids and the fact that we live in America and we can't get access to the kind of medication we need for our children based on where we live is just crazy," Heather Johnson said.

That's why the Johnson's will be watching what happens in St. Paul closely.

"We can't fix it. We need people in Minnesota to help us - to help us be able to keep her safe and healthy," Heather Johnson said.

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