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Medical marijuana a personal issue for Rochester family

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- A Rochester family is watching the battle over medical marijuana from both Minnesota and Colorado. They've split their family so their 8-year-old daughter can get the treatment they say she needs.

Sarah and David Rowland say their daughter Lily was diagnosed with generalized intractable epilepsy when she was only an infant. Now, they say her disease has gotten so bad and traditional treatments just weren't working.

"When we were home we couldn't even have the lights on without Lily having seizures," said Sarah Rowland, Lily's mom.

In the past year, the Rowland's say Lily's epilepsy has only gotten worse.

"We've landed in the ICU twice and gone into status, and it just started to take her life," said Sarah.

They say they've exhausted almost every form of traditional treatment here in Rochester.

"We've gone through 20 different medications and two diets," Sarah said.

When their doctor said there weren't many options left to try, the Rowland's started to consider options outside of Minnesota. "I did some Googling and we found out about cannabis oil," Sarah said.

That's when they decided to join the hundreds of families across the country who have left their homes or split their households and moved to Colorado where medical marijuana products are legal and available.

"It's an influx of refugees, all there for the same reason that we are," said David Rowland, Lily's father.

Three weeks ago, Sarah and the younger kids moved, leaving David in Rochester for work and the oldest daughter for school.

"I think it too, when it comes to your children and you see them suffer like that everyday, you don't really have a choice," Sarah said. "It's just a sacrifice you make, and it's worth it. I would do it over and over for her."

It was also three weeks ago that Lily started receiving regular treatments with cannabis oil from a strain called Haleigh's Hope. The Rowland's say the oil contains no active THC, just cannabinoids, and they say, it has made a world of difference.

"She wakes up so bright eyed and ready to play, and I haven't seen that in a year and a half," Sarah said.

They say in three weeks her seizures have been cut in half, but the benefit comes with a cost.

Dad now watches Lily's health improve through his iPhone. "I see the kids playing, and I just want to go right through the phone and give everybody a hug," said David.

The Rowland's say that's the hard part about this debate in St. Paul. While the House, Senate, governor, law enforcement, medical community and general population work out their positions, the Rowland's are watching from two homes hoping to make their family whole again.

"I understand that they want to be cautious and careful, but it's hard for me when you see all these children suffering," Sarah said.

The Rowland family says they hope medical marijuana is legalized in the state, but even if it is signed into law this year, they say it would probably be another year before they could reunite. They say they would have to make sure they can get Lily's oil in Minnesota without bringing it across state lines. That's because it's still illegal on the federal level.
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