Cherokee County mom advocating for medical marijuana in Georgia

Joshua Sharpe, The Marietta Daily Journal

Corey Lowe doesn’t know if medical marijuana can help her daughter, but as a mother she said she is willing to fight for a chance to make her child’s life better — no matter how long that life may be.

Lowe, 35, of Holly Springs, is pushing state lawmakers in 2014 to legalize medical use of the drug in hopes it might help her 12-year-old daughter Victoria, who has chronic seizures and cannot speak because of development issues.

“This may or may not work, and all I’m asking is to have the opportunity to try it,” Lowe said Friday. “I’m always trying to find something to help her. We’re not some potheads … trying to get our daughter stoned.”

Victoria, a Hasty Elementary School student, was diagnosed with mitochondrial disease at an early age. Lowe said doctors told her and her husband, Jason, to do their best to make their child’s life as good as possible, because she probably wouldn’t live to be an adult.

That’s easier said than done, her mother said.

Victoria has had seizures for nearly her entire life. They come

suddenly and she sometimes has 50 times a day, Lowe said. As a result, Lowe believes her daughter’s brain has been stalled in development, making her life more closely resemble that of a toddler.

Answers, though, have been slim for Victoria’s parents about exactly why she is the way she is. Lowe said she isn’t even sure if the diagnosis was correct, as some parts of Victoria’s condition have puzzled doctors.

At 12, Victoria still wears diapers and needs help to do the simplest tasks. She fights when her mother tries to make her put on shoes or a jacket, because she can’t stand the feeling. She has to be picked up from school many days, because her teachers can’t handle the seizures. She relies on a service dog to bark when she has a seizure if she’s away from people.

And although she has never spoken a word in her entire life, Lowe said Victoria has only been able to learn two signs in sign language.

“She’s never picked up on sign language,” her mother said. “You just kind of have to know her needs and wants. You’ve got to be intuitive.”

If Victoria wants something, Lowe said she points and grabs it. If she doesn’t want it, she pushes it away.

“She has no quality of life,” said Lowe, who has five other children.

But after doing research about what other families have seen through the use of medical marijuana in children like Victoria, Lowe believes the drug might at least make her daughter’s life more bearable.

Coveted results

In recent months, Lowe has become more and more interested in the potential of marijuana used as medicine.

She’s spent a great deal of time reading up on the pros and cons and talking with other families who are also intrigued by the idea.

Then she met Aaron Klepinger.

Klepinger moved his family to Colorado from Marietta in late 2013 on a leap of faith that the medical marijuana available there could somehow help his son Hunter. Eight-year-old Hunter also has chronic seizures and, like Victoria, leads the life of a much younger child because of development issues.

“He’s had seizures nearly every day for eight years,” Klepinger said Friday, adding that Hunter is on the development level of a 1-month-old. “He’s severely, severely affected.”

But after six weeks of taking a regimen of oil extracted from marijuana, Klepinger said his son’s life has changed.

“In that six weeks, we had a period of six consecutive days with no seizures, which has never happened in his life,” said Klepinger, 36, who is hoping to move back to Georgia when the drug is allowed for medical use. “He’s much more aware of his surroundings and able to focus. He holds eye contact much better now, significantly better. Little things to use are huge, because he’s so severely affected.”

Lowe looks at children like Hunter and she wants what they have for Victoria.

“I want her to stop having seizures and begin to talk and say ‘Mom, I want cereal,’ or ‘Mom, I love you,’” she said. “I see story after story after story that I’m following and I (wonder) what are we missing out on here? Why do I have to uproot my entire family and move to Colorado? We have six kids who are established.”

Lobbying for change

Twenty states and the District of Columbia have so far allowed medical marijuana. Lowe doesn’t see why Georgia can’t become the next state on the list during the 2014 legislative session.

She and other parents have joined together in a statewide advocacy group called Americans for Safe Access Georgia, which they hope will get the state’s lawmakers to consider their cause.

Some legislators appear to at least be listening.

House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) told Atlanta media this week that he had concerns about making the drug available for medical use in Georgia, but he was open to considering it. He added that politics needed to be taken out of the discussion and facts should be considered.

State Rep. Scot Turner (R-Holly Springs) said he’d be willing to be a part of the conversation.

“I’ll echo what the speaker said,” Turner said Friday. “I think we should at least talk about it and look at the facts of the potential benefit, and obviously take a look at the downside as well.”

Turner said he thought lawmakers could possibly take up the issue for discussion during the 2014 session.

Lowe said she’s heard from several others who are open to the possibility of changing Georgia’s stance on medical marijuana. If that happens, she hopes Victoria could have a chance at something close to a normal life.

“I think that everything’s coming out in due time. More and more people, who are educating themselves and are saying ‘Hey, we never looked at this before,’ are getting on board,” she said. “I think that it can get passed this year if we keep the momentum and keep educating people.”