This blog is specifically regarding medical cannabis and what happened during the recent debate in Iowa House district 19 between State Representative Ralph Watts and his opponent, Bryce Smith. Please watch the enclosed video first, then read the following story.
Excerpt from the October 14 debate between Iowa House district 19 candidates at the Adel Public Library.
Hello. My name is Erin Miller. My family and I moved to Dallas County two years ago. We chose to build our home here and to raise our little boy (who has special needs) with his maternal grandmother and both parents under one roof.
My son is just 4 years old and he suffers from a rare gene mutation called UBE2A Deficiency Syndrome. Our family is the third family in the world known to have this mutation and our specialists told us that they would be learning from our son instead of vice versa. We are involved in Medical Research Programs at world-renowned hospitals including University of Iowa, Mayo Clinic and the University of Chicago.
Throughout his infancy, my son was suffering from debilitating seizures. At 2 years of age, he was functioning at a 7-month-old-level developmentally and his neurological symptoms were in fast decline. Even on high doses of anti-epileptic drugs and benzodiazepines, he found no relief. In the spring of 2015, our Neurologist suggested that we go to Colorado to try medical cannabis oil to ease some of his suffering and today, my son is nearly 18 months seizure free. He has had noticeable improvements in his developmental abilities and is now functioning at an 18-24 month old level at the age of 4. Yet, in the state of Iowa – I am unable to obtain cannabis oil legally.
In the 2015 legislative Session I began reaching out to my District’s Representative, Ralph Watts and shared with him our need for help. It took several e-mails and phone calls before I got a response but when the session started he was kind enough to meet my son and my mother where he and his wife bought us lunch. Shortly after that he shared on the radio that my son’s story had changed his mind on cannabis. I was elated and proud that my son’s story could change someone’s mind after all he’d been through.
Yet, in true political fashion, the bill that was written last year was stripped of many medical conditions before it even reached the sub-committee. Ralph Watts did vote “yes” in the Commerce Committee on HSB607 but he voted “no” on two more bills (H8290, Rule 60/SF484) that may have helped Iowa’s sick and suffering when HSB607 was never brought up in the Ways and Means Committee.
Rep Watts even had the opportunity to speak up and share his thoughts on medical cannabis during the debate for H8290, but he chose to remain silent instead of standing up and speaking on behalf of my son, like the other representatives were doing for their constituents from all across Iowa. After the session was over, I reached out to Rep Watts’ and asked him why he’d voted “no”. He wrote that it “wasn’t good for all Iowans” and sent me a link to a propaganda website about the dangers of cannabis to children.
It was then, that I reached out to Rep Watts’ opponent, Bryce Smith, to see where he stood on medical cannabis. Instead of having to write multiple emails and leave several phone messages, Bryce was sitting in the chair across from me later that night listening to our story. I took it upon myself to write a letter to the Des Moines Register sharing my experience with politics and why my multi-generational family would be voting for Bryce this coming election. Little did I know that my letter to the Register would be “an issue in the campaign” for Rep Watts.
On October 14, I had an opportunity to watch a debate between Rep Watts and Bryce Smith, and I must admit that I was shocked. I was referred to as “Erin Miller, the voter in question” when the moderator asked Bryce if he was running an “untruthful campaign” based on what I had written to the Register. Bryce was even asked if his campaign had anything to do with my letter - as if a college educated, 40-year-old woman, wife and mother of a special needs child couldn’t possibly think for herself.
Ironically, I think perhaps they should have asked Rep Watts if he was running a truthful campaign. In Watts' cannabis oil video on his campaign website, Rep Watts claims to have been the “swing vote in that commerce committee meeting” and in the debate on October 14th, stated “When it comes to the commerce committee, I voted to bring it out of committee. I was the only Republican that did that. If I hadn’t of voted for it then, it wouldn’t have even come out”.
The vote for HSB607 in the commerce committee passed with a majority of 17-6. It is mathematically impossible for Rep Watts to have been the “swing vote” or the “only Republican” to have voted “yes” for HSB607. The Commerce Committee is compromised of (14) Republicans and just (9) Democrats. The Republican who wrote HSB607 is the Chair of the Commerce Committee and he most certainly would not have voted against his own bill.
During the debate he accused Bryce of deflating records to "change the message on (his) Facebook". Yet, Rep Watts has stated on video multiple times that he was the decisive influence on the result of a medical cannabis vote in the Commerce Committee when it can be proven otherwise.
To specifically use how Representative Watts treated my family and my personal reaction to it as fodder for mud slinging in a political debate is unbelievable. I’m a mom fighting for her baby. I have no interest in politics but I’ve been put into the unfortunate situation of having a special needs child with a rare condition and a real need for access to medical cannabis.
I speak the truth, tell my son’s story as-is and have been publicly called out in a political debate because I had the guts to stand up and share what happened to my family along with thousands of other Iowans at the Capitol last session.
I share my son’s story because there is no other way for people to understand what families like mine go through if we don’t. I’m voting for Bryce Smith because my heart tells me to. I need a Representative at the State House that speaks for my family’s needs and who truly has empathy for Iowa’s sick and suffering.
For Fairness, I am also linking Rep Watts' Cannabis Oil video from his campaign website,to be fair and so people can see/hear for themselves his claim of being the "swing vote in that commerce committee meeting."
Top image: Screen shot from the October 14 between Republican State Representative Ralph Watts and Democratic challenger Bryce Smith