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The Kids Who Changed the Medical Marijuana Debate

The Kids Who Changed the Medical Marijuana Debate
PHOTO Gillnisha

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The Kids Who Changed the Medical Marijuana Debate

On June 26, Ireland launched a five-year medical cannabis pilot program, inspired in part by the plight of sick children finding relief from cannabis — following in a much larger global trend.

As the debate around the positive benefits of medical cannabis now touches most corners of the globe, few things have had as major an impact in getting the conversation this far as parents telling the stories of their children living a better quality of life thanks to cannabis.

As media outlets have picked up the stories of these children, people have been able to see the amazing impact medical cannabis has on children struggling with a variety of illnesses. In front of the eyes of the world, these kids went from having endless seizures or being bedridden to living a quality life. However, a lot of the kids that have been a major part of the cannabis reforms of the last decade were fairly young, so there is only so much we can get from them telling the tale themselves. It was often the parents themselves who articulated what it was like to struggle with watching their sick child, the desperation that caused them to turn to cannabis and the experience of watching their child then improve. That’s what makes the experiences of their parents so critical in understanding how big a role medical cannabis is playing in their current quality of life.

Here are some of the kids whose stories changed hearts and minds across the world.

Jayden David – California

Early in the 2010s, Jayden David’s plight with Dravet syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy, was chronicled across all forms of media. Jayden’s father Jason would be an early face for parents dealing with the vicious form of infant epilepsy that his child was diagnosed with at one and a half. Back then, Jason David told people his ultimate goal was to hear his son say “I love you,” but he was just happy to be able to get a kiss when he requested one. California already had medical cannabis, having legalized the plant for medicinal purposes in 1996, but there were still battles to fight with public opinion and the federal government. As the federal crackdown began on state-legal medical cannabis businesses by President Barack Obama’s Department of Justice, Jayden served as a prime example of the kinds of people the state of California’s medical cannabis program was serving.

Charlotte Figi – Colorado

When Dr. Sanjay Gupta introduced the wider masses to CBD in the first installment of his CNN series on marijuana in 2013, the tale of then-6-year-old Charlotte Figi was front and center. Viewers were introduced to Figi and her family and the horrors of her battle with Dravet syndrome. After dealing with nonstop seizures on an hourly basis that had nearly killed baby Figi on multiple occasions, the first time her parents fed her CBD oil the seizures stopped for a week. That story resonated hard nationwide, and the CBD boom began in earnest.

Ava Twomey – Ireland

Like Figi and David, Ava Twomey was diagnosed with Dravet’s syndrome as a small child. At its worst, Ava’s condition saw her suffer from 16 seizures in just 36 hours. Ava received a special license from the Irish government to continue her marijuana treatments legally in late 2017. Over the course of the last three years, Ava’s mother Vera Twomey has been a leading advocate behind the recently successful effort to legalize medical marijuana in Ireland. Last summer, Vera announced that Ava was now free of pharmaceuticals.

Dan Haslam – Australia

Dan Haslam’s story is a bit different than the others. He was older, and his father Lou Haslam spent 34 years in law enforcement. Specifically, Lou worked as an undercover narcotics officer in New South Wales. He told the BBC he arrested tons of people for cannabis crimes. When his 20-year-old son was diagnosed with cancer, Lou went to the illicit market to get his son medicine. Dan would go on to live a better quality of life in his final years thanks to cannabis, though he sadly lost his battle with cancer at age 25. But all was not in vain. Dan’s story inspired the Government of New South Wales to begin medical cannabis trials for terminal patients. His family also led a petition effort in support of medical marijuana that amassed over 320,000 signatures.

These four individuals are only four examples of a much larger movement, comprising hundreds of families that have spoken out about their need to access quality cannabis medicine. As more and more countries pass medical cannabis laws, their activism will continue to inspire.

TELL US, do you think sick children should be able to access medical cannabis?

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