TWIN FALLS — Kelsey Osborne waved a sign outside the Twin Falls County Courthouse: “Illegal does not equal injury.”
She was joined by 10 others including Serra Frank, founding director of Moms for Marijuana International, who held a sign that said, “Parents beware CPS is corrupted.”
Osborne, 23, pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Twin Falls County Magistrate Court on a misdemeanor count of injury to a child. She was charged after she gave her daughter butter infused with marijuana to treat the girl’s seizure-like symptoms. A jury trial is set for Feb. 8.
Osborne’s case has reignited debates in Idaho over the use of medical marijuana oil to treat children suffering from severe epilepsy and other conditions. And Osborne is raising concerns about what she perceives to be dangerous pharmaceuticals and her choice as a parent to give whatever care she deems necessary to her child.
No one at the courthouse appeared to be rallying in support of the charge against Osborne.
Pro-medical marijuana supporters like Frank say Osborne’s story shows the failure of marijuana prohibition in Idaho.
In 2015, a bill reached Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s desk that would have created a legal defense for possession of cannabidiol oil, or CBD oil, a non-psychoactive marijuana extract, if a person had it to treat either theirs or their child’s severe seizure disorder. Otter vetoed the bill and issued an executive order allowing up to 25 children with persistent seizures to have access to an experimental, non-psychoactive drug derived from marijuana.
Osborne said her daughter Madyson’s behavior has become progressively worse since she was 18 months old. She had a particularly bad night Oct. 4 after several weeks of going on and off Risperidone, an antipsychotic medication. The next morning, Madyson was having febrile seizures, vomiting and acting out in a way she never had.
Osborne said she contacted Madyson’s doctor at 10:30 a.m. but was told they couldn’t get an appointment until 1 p.m.
To calm Madyson, Osborne made her a smoothie with marijuana butter. The mother said her daughter’s seizure-like symptoms stopped about 30 minutes later, and Madyson took a nap.
The doctor called the Department of Health and Welfare when the girl tested positive for marijuana at the appointment. The state took Madyson and her son, Ryker, from her home and placed them with her ex-husband in Jerome, leaving her with supervised visitation rights.
“It was the medicine that caused it, the Risperidone,” Osborne said outside the courthouse after pleading not guilty. “It caused the seizures and hallucinations. I don’t believe there is any way possible that I could have injured my daughter. Them putting her on Risperidone did more harm than the cannabis ever did.”
When Caitlin Heiner heard of Osborne’s case, she decided show up at the courthouse for support. The mother of three didn’t know Osborne, but she could relate to her story.
Heiner’s daughter Scarlett, 3, has severe disabilities and special needs.
“I think cannabis oil and medical marijuana would be especially beneficial for her,” Heiner said.
Scarlett is blind, has a feeding tube and uses a wheelchair. She was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and diabetes insipidus, a rare disorder that causes an imbalance of water in the body, among others that affect her thyroid and brain.
“She bites and tears her arm,” Heiner said. “And punches herself in the head.”
Heiner said Scarlett takes 10 medications daily, including injections.
“I’ve never been anti-establishment or pro-drug,” she said. “I never even smoked marijuana before, but something needs to change. I never realized how big of a problem this is until I had a special-needs kid.”
For others, Osborne’s case has parallels to debates over Idaho’s faith-healing law.
In October, a 10-member legislative panel chose not to submit a recommendation to the Idaho Legislature about changing the law, which allows families to cite religious reasons if they opt not to seek medical treatment for their sick children. Under the law that protects them for prosecution if the child suffers or even dies.
Advocates for the law say it protects religious freedoms and parental rights.
Frank, who was friends with Osborne before she was charged, said Osborne turned to her for help, knowing her mission with Moms for Marijuana International.
“I am a family advocate,” Frank said. “I help them and teach them how to fight the system by learning your rights.”
Frank said the grassroots group, “Raises awareness, promotes education and creates discussion about the Cannabis plant.”
In January, Frank was cited with possession of marijuana and possession of paraphernalia when she tried to smoke on the steps of the Capitol in downtown Boise. She planned to smoke a joint at the Capitol at 4:20 p.m. on New Year’s Day as an act of civil disobedience. Frank has interstitial cystitis, a painful bladder condition, and said marijuana helps her cope with the pain better than any medication prescribed to her.
Frank was stopped before she could light up, but she said she plans to do again as a way to bring awareness to the need to legalize medical marijuana.
Kay Bain, 20, from Twin Falls, heard about Osborne’s case in the news and saw the call to protest Tuesday on Facebook. Bain supports the mother for what she did because she believes marijuana should be legal.
Bain held a sign that said, “Free the Leaf,” along with others protesting near Shoshone Street and Fourth Avenue North in downtown Twin Falls.
“I’m just here as an individual in solidarity with the Osborne family,” Bain said. “It’s just sad that a woman who only wants the best for her child had her taken away. If a mother has her children taken away, and she’s treating them better than mainstream medicine, what does that say about our system?”