Minnetonka Family Fights to Legalize Medical Marijuana

Updated: 03/04/2014 11:17 PM
Created: 03/04/2014 7:45 PM
By: Tom Hauser

For many people the fight to legalize medical marijuana is a political matter. For some families in Minnesota, it's a matter of life and death. 

That's the case for the family of 22-year-old Alec Kelsey of Minnetonka. "He's had life-threatening seizures for 18 years of his 22 years," says his mom, Kim Kelsey.

A Minnesota House committee has approved a plan that would legalize medical marijuana, but it still faces a long road in the Legislature. Members of the Health and Human Services Policy Committee advanced the bill Tuesday evening after listening to mothers testify about how their children suffered up to 100 seizures a day before receiving marijuana treatment.

Kim is convinced a form of medical marijuana has the potential to dramatically improve her son's quality of life. It's called CBD, an extract from a cannabis plant, that isn't what you'd imagine when you think about marijuana. "It can't get you high," Kelsey says. "You don't smoke it. We're not rolling him a joint. None of the above! So when we say marijuana I think it gives it such a bad rap because it's literally an oil and it's put with a dropper under his tongue." 

That's what the Kelseys would do if it was legal in Minnesota. Right now it's not. That's why Rep. Carly Melin, DFL-Hibbing, authored a bill to make some forms of medical marijuana available to Minnesotans. 

For families like the Kelseys, it might be their last hope. They say they've tried every FDA-approved therapy without much success. Alec is not a candidate for surgery. The Kelseys say they'll do whatever they can to improve is quality of life.

Despite daily life-threatening seizures since the age of 4, Alec earned 19 varsity letters in six "adapted" sports at Minnetonka High School before graduating in 2010. He was even honored as Minnetonka's "Athlete of the Year." 

"He's been in track running the track, had a seizure, gotten up and stumbled his way through the finish line," his mom says proudly. "He won't give up."

A medical marijuana expert, Dr. Lindsey Pearson, attended Tuesday's medical marijuana hearing. He's worked in Arizona where medical marijuana is legal and says it often works on epileptic seizures like those experienced by Alec. "I've seen it work first-hand," Pearson says. "People get better. Quality of life is great."

Many law enforcement groups in Minnesota are concerned about opening the door to any legalized marijuana, even though 21 states have legalized it in some form. Medical researchers also remain split on the issue.

The Kelseys have no doubts. They just hope they're not forced to move to a state where it is legal to help their son, even though there is no guarantee medical marijuana will help their son. 

"If we were to up and leave it would crush him," Kim Kelsey told KSTP before a State Capitol hearing on the issue. "It would crush his soul and his soul is what's keeping us all going."

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