IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Quinn Stumpf's first two years of life have been painful for her and heartbreaking for her family.
She's endured 150-plus doctor visits and eight hospitalizations. Her nights are sleepless, often getting just a couple hours of rest. And she suffers from seizures off and on throughout the day.
"She's in pain, it seems like, all the time," April Stumpf said of her daughter, who has a severe neurological disease and is on a long list of daily medications.
As of July 1, however, the rural Riverside family has a new option they hope will ease Quinn's seizures and pain — a treatment they and other parents have been lobbying for for months at the Statehouse to make legal in Iowa.
Iowa's new medical marijuana law took effect a month after Gov. Terry Branstad, who like many Republican lawmakers had previously been a steadfast opponent of medical marijuana legislation, signed a bill allowing parents to purchase a cannabis oil extract to lessen the effects of their children's seizures.
The Iowa City Press-Citizen reports (http://icp-c.com/1vy1UVv ) Quinn and her parents, April and Chad Stumpf, played a role in the passage of the legislation, a narrowly defined law that marks Iowa's first foray into medicinal marijuana. The family made several visits to Des Moines in recent months, including the parents sitting down with Branstad in his office and Quinn making an appearance on the Senate floor.
"They haven't given us the best prognosis for Quinn, but to know she's helped make a difference in so many lives and touched so many people, for her to have done that at such a young age is something we're really proud of," April Stumpf said. "No matter what happens with her, we know she's made an impact in so many lives."
Under the new bill, people who receive a recommendation from an Iowa neurologist will be able to purchase the special marijuana extract in other states for the treatment of intractable epilepsy — the medical term for seizures that standard treatments have failed to control.
Although the passage is being hailed as a victory by parents like the Stumpfs, they say the logistics of obtaining the medicine for their children will be a challenging one for many and a prohibitive one for others.
First, a neurologist who has treated the child for at least six months must determine that alternative treatment options have been exhausted before recommending the cannabis oil. Families must then apply for a cannabidiol registration card from the state. Then, because law does not allow the production of cannabidiol in Iowa, families must find an out-of-state source to procure it and navigate that state's requirements, potentially behind a long waiting list of other families.
The Stumpfs hope to make a trip to Colorado — the closest state to Iowa to legally obtain the oil — in July, and will travel by car because the extract can't be transported by airplane under federal law.
Between travel expenses and obtaining the medicine, the family expects it to cost about $1,000 for each trip. Because a patient cannot possess more than 32 ounces of the oil at a time, the Stumpfs are uncertain how frequently they will need to make the trip. They estimate it could be every three to six months.
"We're hopeful it reduces some of the seizures and some of the pain, and help her have a better life than she has right now," April Stump said.
State Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, a vocal medical marijuana proponent at the Statehouse, said families like the Stumpfs played a critical role in the passage of the bill by sharing their stories with lawmakers. He said that after seeing firsthand the benefits medical marijuana could have for children like Quinn, it was hard for lawmakers "to not respond positively."
"I think the success can be attributed to the Iowa moms and dads who fought tenaciously for their kids," Bolkcom said. They wouldn't accept 'no,' and their stories were quite compelling. They saw the benefit of this medicine that's not available to them in Iowa legally, and they made a case that they should have access to it like people in 21 other states."
State Rep. Jarad Klein, R-Keota, who served as the house floor manager for the bill, said that as a father of three young children, the Stumpfs' story was a touching one.
"It was a unique opportunity to get government out of the way and give families and their neurologists and physicians the ability to make the best medical decision in an almost impossible situation," Klein said.
Klein said this bill is as far as he's comfortable taking medical marijuana use in Iowa for now, however.
"I really want to keep watching this issue, keep watching the other states to see how they react, because the issue reaches so far," Klein said.
Bolkcom said it's unclear how many Iowa children could benefit from cannabis oil treatments, whether it's a few dozen or a few hundred. He called the bill a welcome first step, but far from perfect because Iowans will still have to travel out of state to obtain the oil — something many families won't be able to afford.
"Iowa families will pay more and struggle harder to get the medical cannabis oil they need," Bolkcom said. "Many Iowa families will be unable obtain the medicine they need because they'll have to travel to another state to get it. The law simply provides legal protection to families and patients who possess cannabis oil in their home."
Bolkcom is pushing for the state to explore how medical marijuana can be used to help Iowans suffering from other debilitating diseases, including cancer, multiple-sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, spinal cord injuries, glaucoma and PTSD.
"I think our family and friends here should have the right to effective medicines that are currently available in 21 other states," Bolkcom said.
A legislative council has approved the formation of an interim committee that will examine the implementation of the new law. Bolkcom said there also is interest from some lawmakers to look into expanding the state's program to address more conditions that could benefit from medical marijuana.
Information from: Iowa City Press-Citizen, http://www.press-citizen.com/