Long path awaits those seeking cannabis oil

The signing of a bill on Friday which will allow the use of cannabis oil to treat severe epilepsy was a step forward for those seeking the treatment.

Tiffany Hoffmann, of Webster City, will soon begin the process of obtaining the oil for her six-year-old daughter, Kyleigh Burlingame. She advocated for the bill’s signing at a town hall meeting in Webster City on May 8. It was an emotional moment for Hoffmann when she heard Branstad was going to sign it.

“I have a lot of gratitude towards the fact that he could open his heart to the kids that need it,” Hoffmann said.

However, obtaining the cannabis oil will take some time. The law stipulates that anyone who wants to legally possess the treatment needs a recommendation from an Iowa neurologist. Kyleigh sees doctors at the University of Iowa Hospitals and sees a neurologist who is in favor of the treatment. Hoffmann said she’s lucky, because others who go out of state for medical services will have to find someone in Iowa to give them the chance to try cannabis oil. Even with that medical relationship established, Hoffmann doesn’t expect to get a recommendation soon.

“It’s like a six-month wait to get in to a neurologist, sometimes more,” she said. “Just because you find a doctor that’s supportive of it doesn’t mean you can get in to be evaluated.”

Being evaluated doesn’t guarantee a recommendation, Hoffmann said, as doctors may recommend a prescription medication rather than cannabis oil.

If a cannabis oil recommendation is made, those seeking it will still have a lengthy drive ahead of them. The law will not allow the oil to be sold in Iowa, so Hoffmann said families will have to travel to another state, such as Colorado, where it is legal to purchase.

Despite the daunting journey ahead for Kyleigh and her family, the bill’s signing was a victory for them and others who advocated for it. Hoffmann said she met many parents of children with epilepsy who she had only spoken to online before. Kyleigh was also not alone.

“It’s certainly exciting for Kyleigh to be able to come and see other kids that also have seizures. It’s kind of a different experience for her and I think it’s a big deal for her to meet them,” Hoffmann said.

The law will take effect on July 1.