Medical marijuana brings hope to parents in DeSoto County



There are parents in DeSoto County who have long been waiting for medical marijuana to arrive in Mississippi, and now their wait is finally over.

“My main push, all the time, was for the kids,” said Amy Smoot, an activist for the legalization of medical marijuana in DeSoto County. “Because adults can find it on the black market, we’ve always been able to. But we needed children to have safe, tested, regulated drugs. Not something that went through the hands of 12 people and went through five. states and you don’t know who touched it. That was the whole point of getting a safe, regulated product for these kids. ”

Gov. Tate Reeves signed a bill to legalize medical marijuana in Mississippi in early February. The state will begin accepting license applications from businesses, doctors and patients on June 1, meaning medical marijuana could begin to be prescribed in July. Currently, Olive Branch and Hernando have opted for state laws.

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The bill, which allows patients to buy up to 3 ounces of marijuana a month, is designed to be used by people with debilitating conditions such as cancer, AIDS and sickle cell disease. It can also be used by children with uncontrollable seizures, such as Bryan Loftin. Bryan Loftin is 17 years old and lives with his parents and two siblings. When he was about four years old, he was diagnosed with mitochondrial disease which caused him severe seizures. For years, the Loftin family has been looking for anything that can help.

“We’ve taken a dozen medications over the years and none have helped with seizures, most have worsened their overall condition from side effects,” said Christine Loftin, Bryan’s mother. “We’ve been trying cannabis for a few years now, but it’s not legal here and since I have three kids it’s not really an option to do things illegally. We’re looking forward to it.”

Bryan Loftin is 17 years old and lives with his parents and two siblings.  When he was about four years old, he was diagnosed with mitochondrial disease which caused him severe seizures.  For years, the Loftin family has been looking for anything that can help, and they hope medical marijuana does.

They have reason to believe that medical marijuana might work for Bryan. Small studies have shown success with pharmaceutical grade marijuana extract for controlling seizures in children. There isn’t much conclusive scientific evidence yet, one way or another, but parents across the county have long wanted to have a chance to prove it.

About seven years ago, she began a story in the national media about a variety of marijuana grown in Colorado called the “Charlottes Web” in honor of the first daughter who tried it, Charlotte Figi, who could help control seizures. Due to the apparent success of this variety and the liberal marijuana laws in the state, parents across the country have flocked to Colorado to seek help for their children.

Smoot first became passionate about the subject after hearing a similar story about a co-worker’s niece. The boy had constant seizures and had been in and out of hospitals for years. The medications that the doctors had to try did not help and in some cases made the seizures more frequent. Finally, when he was five years old, he was discharged from the hospital and “told to prepare to die.”

“Fortunately, her mother took her home, but she was not prepared for her death. Instead, they packed everything they had, left the state of Mississippi and their families behind, and moved to Colorado. convulsions for four and a half years, “Smoot said. “She’s out of all prescription drugs. She’s just taking cannabis oil and she’s a completely different child. She’s doing therapy, they’re offering her a communication device, she’s doing horse therapy where she rides horses. When she was here and with pharmaceuticals, she was basically a zombie, all the time. ”

But it is not possible, financially, for all families who want to try their children with medical marijuana to move to Colorado. For the Loftins, it was not possible to move because of their other two children and their jobs.

The leaves of a marijuana plant are displayed in the Ultra Health greenhouse in Bernalillo, New Mexico.  On Wednesday, Mississippi legalized medical marijuana for people with debilitating conditions such as cancer, AIDS and sickle cell disease.

“Having a family with three kids is not the easiest thing to pack up and move halfway around the country,” Loftin said. “That wasn’t really an option with my husband’s job. We tried CBD oil, which helps a lot of people with a lot of different medical conditions, but in Bryan’s case, his seizures are so complicated that he’s going to need something. It will need a little more THC than is allowed in normal CBD oil. ”

Medical marijuana has been legal in Arkansas since 2016 and the state accepts out-of-state medical cards. But Loftin, like many parents, never felt safe on this route to getting medication for their child.

“If for any reason, something appears [in a drug test], I can’t afford to lose custody of my child, even though I’m trying to save his life. The law doesn’t seem to have any interest in that, “Loftin said.” If at some point Mississippi hadn’t passed [the law] maybe we could have had a duel residence and one of us could have lived in Arkansas with Bryan. I’m not sure. Fortunately, we didn’t have to get to that point. Much of my hesitation to evade the system was that you don’t know who will say what to whom and I can’t afford to be evicted. ”

Like any medicine, there is no guarantee that medical marijuana will help Bryan, but the Loftins are hopeful and excited to try it anyway. Seizures can sometimes make it difficult for the family to do activities together and can also cause more health complications for Bryan. He has black eyes and a broken nose and a few summers ago his skull fractured during a seizure.

Bryan Loftin is 17 years old and lives with his parents and two siblings.  When he was about four years old, he was diagnosed with mitochondrial disease which caused him severe seizures.  For years, the Loftin family has been looking for anything that can help, and they hope medical marijuana does.

“Our hope is that we give him a better quality of life, with fewer injuries,” Loftin said. “But then, he’ll also be able to do so many more things without his brain constantly firing.”

It has also been touching to see how the community, in DeSoto and Mississippi, is coming together to fight medical marijuana in the state, both Loftin and Smoot said. In 2020, there was an initiative on medical marijuana that voters approved before it was overturned by the Mississippi Supreme Court. During that election, Loftin had people text him and called to tell him they were going to vote for Bryan.

“We had 16,000 people in DeSoto County vote for medical cannabis,” Smoot said. “That’s a pretty big turnout. Nothing like this has ever happened in Mississippi. How many times are there so many people behind a cause, a Democrat, a Republican, from all walks of life. and it has shown them that if we are together, we can achieve things. ”

Gina Butkovich covers DeSoto County, narratives and general news. You can contact her at 901-232-6714 or on Twitter @gigibutko.

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