This past year, two words have been hot in Georgia: medical marijuana. People have been talking about it everywhere, and finally, some Georgia patients with qualifying conditions are able to use low THC, CBD-rich medical cannabis oil that contains up to 5% THC. Those conditions are as follows: Cancer, ALS, Seizure disorders, Multiple Sclerosis, Crohn’s Disease, Mitochondrial Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, and Sickle Cell Disease. While this is a win for those with these conditions, unfortunately, the law didn’t establish any in-state production or a dispensary system, patients are on their own when it comes to finding the medical cannabis oil they need, and there are tons of other people suffering with other serious conditions that didn’t make the cut.
Sadly, it may be awhile before those issues are rectified, as Georgia Commission on Medical Cannabis recently decided not to move forward with a recommendation to Governor Nathan Deal on how to grow and produce marijuana in the state. Of course, this was a major upset not only to Governor Deal, but also those using medical cannabis in Georgia and those families still unable to come home from Colorado because they are unable to get the medicinal cannabis oil that they need here. Senator Peake is also expected to pre-file his newly expanded medical cannabis legislation on Wednesday, and is urging citizens to contact their representatives using OpenStates.org and tell them how they support medical cannabis in the state of Georgia, and what it could mean for their families. You can view a PSA on the urgency of the situation here: Growing Hope PSA.
One family that has found hope through medicinal cannabis oil is the Lowe family, currently living in Canton, Georgia. Their daughter, Victoria is the oldest of three children and uses medical cannabis oil to treat her seizure condition. Victoria and her mother even relocated to Colorado before cannabis oil was legalized in Georgia. Victoria’s mom, Corey Lowe, says their family is not the only family that relocated either. State Representative Peake has even started a non-profit organization called the Journey of Hope Fund to help families relocate to Colorado to be treated with medical marijuana. To date, his organization has helped 17 different families relocate to Colorado and California. I was able to talk to Corey about the medical cannabis issue, and she was happy to go on the record with me about medical cannabis in the state of Georgia.
TG: Tell me about your family and your children.
CL: Victoria is my oldest; she has 2 younger brothers, Jayden and Joseph. For me, that was the hardest part about being in Colorado – seeing your daughter heal and yet your heart is breaking because you missed your boys’ first day of school. We are originally from Atlanta, but currently living in Canton, Georgia. We are still considering moving back to Colorado, depending on what our lawmakers decide.
TG: How active have you been in the fight to get medical cannabis legalized here in the state of Georgia?
CL: A mother in California reached out to me in 2013; her son had autism. She sent me an article about how her husband was a CHIP Sgt. (California Highway Patrol) This lady, Michelle, followed Victoria’s Facebook page, Paws for a Princess. She was purchasing marijuana (legally) and making her son’s medicine. She went on and on about how he was starting to talk for the first time. And that was the first time medical marijuana fell on my radar. In the fall of 2013, our private parent seizure support group was created on Facebook, and in January 2014, we had our first meeting with the news media before HB885. There were nights that I even slept at the state capitol in 2014. In 2015, the fight was more concentrated on finding our representatives that did not believe in medical cannabis and explaining to them why Georgians needed legal and safe access to this life-saving plant.
TG: How long has your child been suffering from seizures, and what are his/her current diagnoses?
CL: My daughter was born on September 11, 2001, and was diagnosed with infantile spasms on January 2, 2002. Her seizures began right after receiving her vaccines. I actually asked the pediatrician about seizures as a possible side effect, (I did my homework) and she reassured me, there would be a 1 in 30,000 chance. I watched for them though. Call me a paranoid first time mother but when she kept doing these little odd movements over and over, I knew something was wrong. In fact, I took her to the local ER twice and they sent us home with a prescription for heartburn. Always trust your mommy instincts. She currently has Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (uncontrolled epilepsy) and Mitochondrial Disease.
TG: How long has your child been using medicinal cannabis oil?
CL: Her first dose was in June 2014, in Longmont, Colorado. At the founder of the Flowering HOPE Foundation’s home, Jason Cranford. He makes Haleigh’s HOPE cannabis oil. He witnessed Victoria have a drop seizure in his drive way, she basically went limp and fell over, causing another injury. Not long after HB885 died on the Senate floor, State Representative Allen Peake funded our journey to Colorado through his foundation, Journey of HOPE.
TG: How many seizures did your child average per day prior to using cannabis oil and how many medications was he/she using prior to the implementation of the cannabis oil?
CL: Victoria has tried every pharmaceutical, including non-FDA approved medications. When we decided to try cannabis oil, Victoria had already failed 14 different seizure medication. We were told that your chances of 1 working decreases the more you try. So if medication number 1 did not work, chances of medication number 14 working, is pretty slim. So with each new drug, you slowly loose hope that it will work. Most medications offer a “honeymoon” period where you begin to feel some relief and start to think “this one may work” but as you continue that medication, the seizures return, sometimes worse than before.
In 2014 before starting cannabis oil, On the very last day Elementary school, Victoria had a seizure every minute for 30 mins, in fact they called EMS. That was the day, I said “enough, we’re taking her to Colorado.” We tried the Vagal Nerve Stimulator as well, but she needed to have surgery each time the battery needed replaced. On a good day, she’d had 10-25 seizures (this is after her VNS implant) Prior to the VNS implant, she’d easily have 50-100 seizures per day. We obtained a seizure alert dog and we also saw a world renowned neurologist in Detroit via Angel Flight. When she was diagnosed with Mitochondrial Disease, they told me to be concerned with the quality of life not quantity. I’ve looked at every possible way, to improve both.
TG: How many seizures does he/she average now and how many medications is he/she currently on while using the cannabis oil?
CL: I thought about this while driving into work this morning, every Fall and Spring, Victoria would be transported to the ER for uncontrollable seizures, since she’s been on cannabis oil consistently, that hasn’t occurred. Currently, she has 2-3 per day. We are on 2 different pharmaceuticals and slowly weaning one of them. This time last year, she was on 800 mg of Banzel and 100 mg of another seizure drug. Now, we’ve been able to taper the Banzel down to 200 mg, which is a success in my book. Honestly, that’s been the hardest part, watching your non verbal child go through drug withdrawals. She’s been on heavy pharmaceuticals for 14 years. I am excited to see her “wake up” and not be a drugged up zombie. When I was in Colorado, I needed to refill one of her prescriptions, I quickly understood why major pharmaceutical companies are fighting parents like us, when I went to pick up her prescription, they said it would be $800.00. At the time, cannabis oil was $25.00 per bottle, which lasted a month.
TG: Have you noticed any changes in his/her behavior? Is he/she able to actively pursue and enjoy more activities?
CL: We did go on cruise last February, thanks to the MAKE A WISH Foundation, however because cannabis oil isn’t allowed in every State, we cannot travel with it. She had seizures every single day of the “vacation” without her medicine.
TG: Where can we find information about how cannabis oil helps children with seizures?
CL: See Sanjay Gupta’s video. And if you have more time, check out his mini-series called Weed. There are 3 different mini documentaries.
TG: Has the cannabis oil helped with any of your child’s other health conditions?
CL: Since Victoria is nonverbal, I’m not sure how exactly how she feels. Her tolerance for pain is out of this world, she had a cracked knee cap (from falling from a seizure) and it was 2 weeks before anyone knew it. I have talked with adults with different conditions, from M.S to Mito, and they’ve reported back that oil has helped with muscle spasms, nausea, vomiting, and/or mainly dystonia.
Since marijuana is a Schedule I substance, they cannot do any studies. In fact, when we first began lobbying here in Georgia, we had several colleges that were willing to do a cannabis oil study. Unfortunately, once they did further research, they learned that they would lose federal funding because it remains a Schedule I substance.
TG: Are there any major health concerns or risks associated with your child using cannabis oil?
CL: Not on my end. Sadly, there are a lot of lawmakers who are concerned about this. I believe God entrusted me to be her mother, her caretaker, her voice. The choice to treat MY child, should be between our family & her team of Doctors, not our lawmakers. This has become a civil rights issue. A patient having the right to receive certain medication should NOT be based on their zip code. This IS America right?
TG: Do you feel there is a stigma with using cannabis oil to treat conditions in children?
CL: I truly believe knowledge is power. I also believe certain people choose NOT to open their ears and receive the message. That is why, for me, every person that I come in contact with, will hear about cannabis oil. From a man asking me for directions, to the office giving me a warning. I’ve told Amy Grant about cannabis oil, Boyd Tinsley (Member of Dave Matthews Band), Mrs. Sandra Deal, half of the FSU Football players that I recently encountered. My daughter has a story and it needs to be told.
The sad part is, as we continue to educate others, we will still have opposition from other organizations. From the beginning, the Christian Collation has fought us, along with others who believe medical marijuana offers no healing properties. It makes one wonder, did they watch the 1936 movie, Reefer Madness on repeat? Or are they a part of something else? I discovered in Colorado, one reason why so many oppose it. When refilling one of Victoria’s seizure prescriptions, I almost fainted when the cashier said “that’ll be $800.00” If a $35.00 bottle of cannabis oil, can help wean her off of some of these medications, if not all, big pharama would lose big bucks. It makes sense.
TG: Have any friends or family reached out in disagreement to the way you have decided to treat your child’s health conditions?
CL: Honestly, no. The biggest opponent was much closer than friends and family, it my husband. He was “that” guy who carried a bible in high school and wore shirts that read- “GOT JESUS?” and of course “JUST SAY NO” but when he met the girl waking up in Colorado, he knew cannabis oil can heal. In fact upon returning home to Georgia, he asked “Don’t you know someone that can make it, friends? A relative?” Like me, he wanted that little girl in Colorado, back.
TG: I know that marijuana activists considered this a huge win for patients in Georgia, even though the law in the current state is pretty restrictive. Do you hope that this opens the door for more relaxed marijuana laws within our state?
CL: I truly hope that Gov. Deal hears that in a recent AJC poll, over 84% of Georgians want more, safer access to medical marijuana. I think it should be left in the hands of our voters, like many other laws. But there’s a reason it’s not. I know that I’ve seen how it’s helped my child and hundreds of other patients, if someone has an illness and they have air in their lungs, then they should have this as a treatment option no matter where they live.
I know I’d rather have her illegally alive, then legally dead, any day.
TG: What are your favorite activist organizations that we should be following in support of medical marijuana?
CL: Georgia’s HOPE
Hope for Silent Sufferers on Facebook
Also join HOPE United on Facebook, it is a private group for lobbying efforts of all illnesses.
Also on the cost of the oils – it has gone up from the $25/$35 price-points. That’s what it cost when we were in Colorado, sadly or not, supply and demand have driven up the cost significantly. It’s now $150-250.00 per bottle, depending on where you order it from. They do sale it on Amazon, cbd oil, it’s pretty cheap. But not lab tested. One desperate mother, thought she was helping and ordered oil from the internet, turns out it was full of pesticides and her daughter had to be placed in the ICU. Please make sure you obtain oils from legitimate sources.