How Sick Children are Trying to Change Medical Marijuana Laws in the U.S.
Marijuana might not have the sordid reputation it once had, but it’s still illegal at a federal level and medical marijuana is only legal in about half the states. Hundreds of families are working to change that though, pushing for the plant to be available to ill children. It has proven to do miracles on kids with mental disorders, like autism or epilepsy.
The Story of Alex Echols
Last year we brought you the story of Alex Echols, a severely autistic child who suffered from regular seizures of self directed rage. The condition left Alex unable to speak and his parents desperate for something to treat their child’s seizures.
Alex’s parents were heartbroken when they had to move their son to a state-funded group home at age 8, and began looking for anything that could help their son’s condition. Almost like a miracle drug, medical marijuana had an incredible effect on Alex and reduced his seizures almost instantly.
The Echols family, like hundreds of others, struggled to find a way to provide their son with his medicine since administering medical marijuana to a minor was illegal for his group home in Oregon at the time.
Charlotte Figi: Another Victim of Seizures
Charlotte Figi is another child who, just like Alex, was suffering from nearly 300 seizures a week. When no prescriptions were making a difference at improving the 6-year-old girl’s condition, Charlotte’s mother turned to cannabis oil. Just like Alex’s, Charlotte’s condition improved radically and the little girl who once couldn’t speak or feed herself is now off all of her previous medications and has only a couple seizures a week.
This is the poignant video of her story, told by her parents:
The Legal Fight of Thousands of Families
Stories of medical marijuana’s success in treating ill children like Alex and Charlotte are leading other families to seek out the drug as an alternative medicine. With the drug still being illegal in many parts of the U.S. and under federal law, bringing the medicine to families in need can be difficult. That’s why a bipartisan bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives to legalize a compound found in marijuana to treat epilepsy. Named after Charlotte Figi, the Charlotte’s Web Medical Access Act would also remove several types of medical cannabis from the the federal list of Schedule I substances.
Charlotte’s mother, Paige Figi, is leading the campaign and wants to do everything in her power to ensure other families have a right to the medicine that changed her daughter’s life. “This is a human rights issue. This has been lifesaving for my daughter,” said Paige.
Word of the particular strain of marijuana that was rich in the CBD compound (which doesn’t produce the same “high” feeling associated with pot) spread after Charlotte’s story was featured on the 2013 CNN documentary Weed. Thirteen states have since changed their laws, and now allow children with intractable epilepsy to be treated with CBD-rich strains of marijuana. It’s where federal comes in that things become complicated. Families can’t cross state lines with the oil in their possession, and it can’t be shipped between states. Some states also prohibit in-state cultivation, meaning that families have to secure it from another state – but then crossing state lines becomes an issue.
For some families, these restrictions have come with the most painful of consequences possible – the loss of a child. In 2015, 9-year-old New York resident Anna Conte died resulting from complications of severe epilepsy. Her family had championed New York state’s passing of marijuana legislation, but it didn’t go in effect until 2016.
Cases like the one of Anna Conte aren’t a rarity, but hopefully with enough people demanding that their politicians support Charlotte’s bill, stories of success like Alex Echols’ can become the majority. To learn more about the many families fighting for the use of medical marijuana to treat ill children, visit Faces of Cannabis.