An Arizona couple is fighting the state to get medical marijuana oil for their severely epileptic child. It’s yet another case where medicinal cannabis, children and politics have met in recent months – and like the others, it involves a seizure disorder and marijuana.
The Weltons – Jacob and Jennifer – have sued Arizona state officials to allow their son to take a cannabis extract that doesn’t get him high but stops his seizures in their tracks.
Five-year-old Zander Welton suffers from cortical dysplasia, a genital defect that can cause seizures. Zander’s epilepsy was so severe he seized every day and couldn’t communicate – until his parents started treating him with medical marijuana.
Before they did, Zander endured frequent seizures that lasted as long as 10 minutes and sometimes nearly killed him. He underwent two brain surgeries, and doctors removed part of his hippocampus and left temporal lobe.
But nothing worked, and the Weltons were faced with two options: remove the left half of Zander’s brain or try the cannabis extract. The oil is high in CBD, a chemical believed to quiet overactivity in the brains of people with epilepsy, but low in THC, the chemical that gets marijuana users high.
Zander received one of about 40 medical marijuana cards given to minors in Arizona, and starting in September, he was treated with the extract. He went from daily seizures to a total of two during the seven weeks he took the oil. These seizures were short and mild compared to his earlier episodes. Zander also started communicating and interacting.
But then in October, the state intervened, informing patients, caregivers and providers that products with cannabis resin may be illegal under the state’s 2010 MMJ law.
Jennifer Welton, who delivered her son’s medication, said she stopped using the oil because she didn’t want to break the law. Instead she has tried to feed her son dried plant, but that hasn’t worked very well.
“He does sometimes find it and then will spit out a piece,” she said. “With the oil extract, it’s like the other medications. You just give him a syringe, boom, you’re done.”
The lawsuit seeks to allow the Weltons to use the extract so they can treat their son and remain in the state. The family are joined in the suit by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Little empirical evidence exists to establish whether CBD is an effective treatment for pediatric epilepsy, mostly because little research has been conducted. But anecdotal evidence has been popping up across the country, as parents of afflicted children organize political movements determined to gain access to medical marijuana for their children.
A family in Colorado made international news when CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta profiled them in an hour-long special, Weed. Their daughter, who suffers from the severe seizure condition known as Dravet syndrome, experienced a remarkable recovery after she was treated with a marijuana extract high in CBD.
In New Jersey, parents of children with seizure disorders were instrumental in pushing Gov. Chris Christie into permitting medicinal pot for minors.