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Family: marijuana is helping our child

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The Selmeskis hoped medical marijuana would change their daughter's life. Now, they say it's working.

In October 2013, Maggie Selmeski was 17-months-old. She has been diagnosed with infantile spasms, and suffers nearly 500 seizures a day. Her parents, Rachael and Shawn, were ready to try anything.

"Seeing her not be able to interact, watching other kids play, and not have your daughter be able to play ..." Rachael Selmeski said in October. "If you start to experience that, then you might realize that there are other options out there. You would try anything for your child to give her a better life."

The seizures delayed her development, her medications weren't working, and the side effects left her heavily sedated.

"So the fact that we're gaining some seizure control without the completely doped up feeling is awesome," Rachael said from their home in Colorado, via Skype

Maggie is now on medical marijuana in the form of an oil called Cannabidiol (CBD).

"That's Maggie's medicine," Selmeski said, holding up a small orange syringe. "That's the CBD, so it's not the image you have of someone sitting and smoking. It's an oil and we just give it to her orally."

Dr. Charuta Joshi is an expert in pediatric seizures at the University of Iowa. She said seizures cause incredible damage to kids, so for a child like Maggie, who has already failed three medications, medical marijuana becomes a viable option. However, she noted that it hasn't been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

"I think as neurologists that deal with rare conditions, it is not uncommon for us to be facing the idea of using medications that are not yet FDA approved in the United States," Joshi said.

Still, without the clinical trials that precede FDA approval, she said it's hard to be sure the CBD is effective from a scientific standpoint.

Maggie is not at her full CBD dosage yet, but her parents said the changes have been incredible

"It's much better than being a shell of body," Rachael Selmeski said. "She's able to take in things."

During our Skype interview, Maggie was moving her head, vocalizing, and responding to sound.

"What else has changed? We have a little bit of a sassy pants on our hands," Selmeski said. "She's a lot more opinionated now so we're keeping up with that."

But still, Colorado is hundreds of miles from their family here in Iowa, so they'll continue lobbying for legalization here.

"People abuse drugs and there's no doubt about that, but we're talking about children that can receive an amazing opportunity at life," Selmeski said.

A representative for Governor Branstad said they plan to exercise caution with marijuana legislation.

"Though he would need to see legislation on medical marijuana in its final form, the governor doesn't believe increased use of marijuana is good public policy," said Jimmy Centers, Communications Director for Gov. Branstad.

Still, Dr. Joshi said Maggie's drug, CBD, can be approved by the FDA for patients on a case-by-case basis. She's applied for two of her patients, but approval can take months.

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