Marijuana extracts gave me my son before I lost him forever. Now, an Arizona Court of Appeals ruling threatens to make that same medicine illegal, unless the Arizona Supreme Court steps in. If left as is, this decision will devastate families like mine.
My son, Zander, had severe epilepsy and suffered from debilitating seizures for most of his seven years of life. He had two unsuccessful brain surgeries and we tried countless pharmaceuticals. When we were faced with the prospect of a third brain surgery, we decided to try something else: an oil containing marijuana extract. It worked. Then we learned that Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery might criminally prosecute us for giving Zander this medicine, which we understood was lawful under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. We sued, and a court ruled that Zander, and other patients, had the legal right to use this extract.
The Arizona Court of Appeals has now taken that right away. A recent ruling concluded that Arizona’s medical marijuana law allows patients to possess only the marijuana plant, not extracts, which are used to create products like Zander’s medicine.
Access to the plant alone would not have helped Zander the way extracts did. We tried it. Vapor from a marijuana plant was unsuccessful because he couldn’t breathe during his seizures. Ground up plant hidden in food didn’t work either. The only thing that worked was using a carefully measured dose of marijuana extract.
First, his visible seizure activity stopped for eight months. When they came back in the form of breakthrough seizures, the marijuana extract kept them away for four to eight hours and allowed his body to recuperate before the next wave hit.
Marijuana extracts also helped Zander begin walking quickly, feeding himself, and reaching so many other developmental milestones that he had missed. He shared joy with us, especially when he saw bright, light-up toys, heard music, or experienced the great outdoors. He recognized us. You don’t know how amazing it feels to have your child finally recognize you as a human, as his mom, after five years of having him push you around the house like a giant doll.
During his last week of life, the extracts kept Zander’s seizures away while his body was shutting down. I don’t know what I would have done without them.
By deeming the medicine that helped Zander illegal, the Arizona Court of Appeals is denying other parents the opportunity to choose the medicine that works best for their child.
This court opinion could rob children with seizure disorders of the priceless, life-changing moments Zander got to enjoy when he was given relief from his seizures. If Zander was still here, this opinion would require my family to make an impossible decision. We could either keep giving our son medicine that relieved his suffering and allowed his personality to flourish, which would expose us to arrest, criminal prosecution, and even potential jail time, or we could comply with the court’s opinion, stop giving him this life-changing medicine and watch his seizures return and his developmental progress wither away. No parent should ever face this devastating choice, especially after the voters of our state have expressly approved of a law to allow patients access to this important medicine.
On January 8, the Arizona Supreme Court will consider whether it will review this opinion from the Court of Appeals. I hope the Justices will remember what is at stake for children like Zander and parents like me.