It’s that time of year when the country celebrate mothers. From pregnancy and childbirth to a lifetime of personal sacrifice, unconditional love and support, every mother should be honored for what she does for her children. But there are some mothers who are asked to bear a much heavier burden than others. Those whose children fall ill from serious conditions are forced to go through experiences and make decisions that most of us can’t even imagine, such as accepting the reality of their child’s struggles, the horrible effects pharmaceutical medications can have on a child or the staggering cost of medical bills.
Fortunately, not all of these mothers have to face an unhappy ending when it comes to their children. Many find relief in what some would consider an unusual place—cannabis. However, the mothers who are brave enough to try anything to make their children well often do so at a cost, be it the criticism they face for their decision, the lengths they have to go through to get cannabis medically or the trial-and-error process in administering cannabis to their children, due to cannabis still being a Schedule I substance.
“We have followed doctor’s orders, filled the prescriptions, tried the diets and all of those things failed these kids. For some, what little relief the medicines did provide was far outweighed by the endless side effects. These children deserve a happy, healthy childhood, plain and simple.”
For Beth Collins, mother of medical cannabis patient Jennifer Collins, cannabis treatment wasn’t something that she was judged for pursuing, but it did cause her entire life to change. Epilepsy can develop in a person at any age, and Jennifer started having epileptic seizures as a young teen.
“I left a quite comfortable corporate career to try and help get sensible medical cannabis laws passed on the state and federal levels,” Beth explained to CULTURE. “It’s incredibly stressful work, but satisfying to know I’m helping to get access to safe medicine to patients in need.” Additionally, Beth has watched her daughter Jennifer overcome the difficulty of living with epilepsy. Jennifer has taken her experiences and bravely spoken about them in public, giving a voice to people living with epilepsy. “She’s been very brave to be so public about her experiences but she’s wanted to speak for those who can’t,” Beth said. “It’s given her a much different outlook than a lot of [other] teenagers have.”
Jessica Hooker, mother of Addison “Addi” Hooker, has experienced a similar struggle. Her daughter Addi, age 11, suffers from a severe form of epilepsy and has only found relief with cannabis oil. Addi has been taking Charlotte’s Web oil for relief since December 2016. She has experienced cognitive, communicative and memory improvement since beginning her treatment.
Even though the Hooker family received criticism for considering cannabis medicine, they persevered and got Addi the medicine she needed. Jessica now shares her family’s cannabis success story in hopes of helping other families in a similar predicament. “For so many children this is the last option, but it should be the first,” Hooker explained to CULTURE. “We have followed doctor’s orders, filled the prescriptions, tried the diets and all of those things failed these kids. For some, what little relief the medicines did provide was far outweighed by the endless side effects. These children deserve a happy, healthy childhood, plain and simple.”
Many mothers in the United States have struggled to get cannabis medicine in their particular location, often uprooting their lives or traveling thousands of miles just to get access to cannabis. However, for Charlotte Caldwell, mother of Billy Caldwell, getting access was even more of a struggle. Because she lived in Northern Ireland, she didn’t even learn about the treatment until she visited Los Angeles to see a pediatric epilepsy specialist and encountered the alternative treatment. Since she discovered medical cannabis, she first administered CBD to Billy, followed by a trial using THC. He is now more than 70 days seizure-free.
Upon their return to Ireland, Charlotte and Billy marched 150 miles to a meeting to demand access to a prescription for the medication, seeing that it is the only medication that has been effective in treating Billy’s condition. “I think what is really important, because Billy’s epilepsy was so drug-resistant, is that medical cannabis should be available as an alternative treatment,” Charlotte told CULTURE. “I would never, ever say or declare that it has cured Billy of his epilepsy, but I would definitely advise parents to give it a try if they are in a situation like I was in where the medicine wasn’t working.”
When most people think of children using cannabis as medicine, it is becoming more common to hear about parents utilizing CBD oils to reduce seizures for children with epilepsy. However cannabis has proven effective at combating many other conditions as well. In the case of Meiko Hester-Perez and her son Joey, cannabis is being used to treat severe autism, and the results are astounding. The oil helps Joey to relax, maintain eye contact and calm down from tantrums. It also has helped him gain weight; previous to the cannabis oil Joey was suffering malnutrition and was diagnosed with anorexia. “I think a lot of people don’t realize that Joey is has been diagnosed as terminal,” Hester-Perez told CULTURE.
Hester-Perez also shared how her journey administering Joey with life-saving cannabis medicine has not only benefited her son, but it’s helped her evolve into a pivotal advocate in the cannabis industry. “In 2009 I was just a mom,” stated Hester-Perez. “In 2017, I’m a scientific advisor; I sit on the board of NORML; I work on companies with cannabis safety, I intervene in Child Protective Services cases to make sure that parents choosing this treatment option have the navigation that goes along with it.”
While each of these mothers has had a unique experience ensuring the well-being of their children and the use of medical cannabis, they all have a few key similarities. These mothers have all fought against the odds to gain access to cannabis for someone they love. Whether they dealt with criticism, struggled to get safe access or had to overcome monetary or geographic hurdles, they all preserved—making their children’s lives better because of it.