The battle in Iowa to legalize medical marijuana is narrowing its focus.
Advocate groups are shifting their gaze now at legalizing cannabis oil specifically. Leading the charge toward legalization in the state is a group of parents with children suffering from seizures.
One family participating in the battle to legalize cannabis oil in Iowa is the Heuck family in Everly, Iowa. Tammi and Mike Heuck's daughter Shelby suffers from frequent seizures. They've tried countless medications and many with scary side effects, like vision loss. Shelby's neurologist is now recommending they try cannabis oil.
The low levels of THC in cannabis oil mean you won't get high from the oil extract. But the high levels of Cannabidiol or CBD can make a big impact in quality of life for those with epilepsy.
"At 17 months old, she had her first seizure," said Tammi Heuck, Shelby's mom.
The Heuck family has been dealing with seizures and medications for their daughter Shelby her whole life. Shelby has cortical dysplasia and as a result, it's caused her to have hypertonia, epilepsy and learning disabilities.
"She's on five different seizure medications, taking 24 pills a day. So, over 8,000 pills a year," said Tammi Heuck.
Shelby's neurologist wants them to try giving Shelby cannabis oil because it's worked so well for others like Shelby across the country.
"A lot of stories we've heard, out of Colorado for example, where children kind of in Shelby's situation. Where children are on so many medications, they're able to come down off of some of their medicine and their seizure activity has dropped," said Tammi Heuck.
Shelby has seizures every day. The Heucks have tried countless other medications without much success but plenty of heavy side effects, like vision loss. Now, they want to try the oil that's worked so well for others. There's only one problem. It isn't legal in Iowa.
"Trying to get it where we can obtain the cannabis oil extract without being criminalized. So we can go to a state and bring it back and not be arrested," said Tammi Heuck. They said they've thought about moving to states where it is legalized but know that's not the right answer for them. Their business is in Iowa and it isn't just Shelby who lives here in Iowa and would benefit from cannabis oil legalization.
The Heucks said they've fought to legalize medical marijuana in the past without much success. They said they think people have a misconception with cannabis oil, too. They said people sometimes think legalization means giving kids a joint to smoke but cannabis oil works very differently.
Inside cannabis oil is Cannabidiol or CBD. Because of the low levels of THC in the oil you won't get high but the oil extract has been known to work wonders for those suffering from epilepsy.
"This product, so far, has had no side effects. I mean, the next medication they want to put our daughter on can cause loss of vision," said Mike Heuck, Shelby's father.
Polls taken in Iowa as recently as March show Iowans are in favor of legalizing medical marijuana. But some, including lawmakers, are hesitant.
"I think there's just a stigma out there. I mean we're trying to educate people. There's cannabis oil, if you say that word they really want to listen. If you say medical marijuana, as soon as you say the word marijuana, then they start to raise their eyes," said Mike Heuck. Heuck said most people just don't understand why the oil is different but once they listen, they're in favor.
For the Heucks, they said they want Iowans to know this isn't about getting high, it's about getting help. And providing the best care for the ones they love.
The Heucks have been at the capitol in Des Moines with the group Concerned Iowans for Medical Cannabis. It's there that they've caught the eyes and ears of lawmakers.
The group's efforts are starting to pay off. The Iowa Senate is expected to move a medical marijuana bill before the end of the 2014 session.