How far would you go to save your ill child's life?
One Florida mother's battle for her daughter has become a fight to legalize medical marijuana.
All parents want a healthy happy baby. Little Dahlia Barnhart appeared to be just that when she was born. But around 2-years-old her mother Moriah noticed something was different about her child. Saying Dahlia often complained of having headaches. By May of 2013 the family of the Tampa toddler was told she had brain cancer.
"The day you find out your child is critically ill not only are you put in the most devastating position in your life, but further more you are told that if you do ask any questions or step outside of the box the state will take your child and they will undergo those very dangerous low success rate treatments whether you agree to it or not," said Barnhart.
Dahlia is now being treated at St. Jude Children's Hospital in Memphis. But back home, Moriah Barnhart is leading the fight to allow children like her daughter to be treated with an unconventional method of easing pain, medical marijuana
"We want this highly regulated, highly licensed," said John Morgan. "We want this done by medical doctors."
At the forefront of the Florida effort to legalize medicinal marijuana is attorney John Morgan of the Morgan & Morgan law firm. You've likely seen or heard his commercials urging people to sign a petition to get the issue of legalization onto the November 2014 ballot.
"We have several hundred thousand signatures," said Morgan. "We had to send some 60,000 to the attorney general. It's now on her desk waiting for her to send it to the supreme court. The Supreme court will then rule on the constitutionality of the language."
From there, the group "People United for Medical Marijuana" would have to collect about 700,000 signatures by the end of February.
It's a challenge Morgan says he's willing to take on. His own father he says used medical marijuana to ease his pain after being diagnosed with esophageal cancer.
"I know that hundreds of thousands of people could benefit if this constitutional amendment is passed," said Morgan.
Florida law now strictly prohibits the use of marijuana for any reason. The Florida Police Chiefs Association is firm on their stance stating that, "It is neither rational nor compassionate to provide a harmful, addictive drug with no scientifically proven medical efficacy."
They believe an increase in the availability and use of the drug will worsen the states crime problem. And legalization of marijuana For medical purposes sends the wrong message to young people.
"At this point we need to move forward it needs to be in the hands of medical professionals, politicians are not physicians," said Barnhart. "Let our doctors do their jobs."
Pediatrician Randy Thorton says there's very little research on medical marijuana and its effect on children.
"All of the information I've seen so far (says) it's relatively safe," said Thorton. "We just don't know long term. My feeling is if you're at the end of the road and nothing else is working and its legalized, try it."
Barnhart says it's painful to watch her daughter undergo chemotherapy, take morphine and other drugs that causes her to appear lifeless at times.
"People want to talk about getting high. She's taking morphine. Morphine gets you high," said Barnhart.
Dr. Thorton says medical marijuana for children would not be smoked like the street drug. Instead it can be made into a liquid.
"It's altered so they remove the parts of the marijuana that give you the buzz or the rush," said Throton. "And leave the chemicals that can help with certain conditions like seizures."
Barnhart says she won't ever let go or give up on Dahlia, and her fight to live a normal life. A life free of hospital beds, medications, pain and suffering.
Barnhart has created a petition on the Whitehouse website. She also has a site called dahliastrong.org, where she shares Dahlia's story in the hopes of garnering enough support to lead to legalization.
Medical marijuana is legal in 20 states and D-C. If the Florida Supreme Court permits the measure to actually go before voters, legalization will be voted on in November of 2014.
First Coast News