Valley moms fighting for medical marijuana for kids with autism

PHOENIX - They are Valley mothers who have turned into activists, now involved in an effort to legalize medical marijuana for children diagnosed with autism. 

Some of these moms admit, they knew nothing about marijuana.

"I thought marijuana was to get you high," said Brandy Williams, who now gives her 8-year old son medical marijuana. 

"When people were talking about the medical benefits of cannabis 18 years ago I just laughed about it and thought, yeah right that's not really medicine but whatever you want to say about it." 

Williams said her child was diagnosed with severe autism just before his third birthday.  

The doctor noticed abnormal eye movements, and tests confirmed seizures and encephalopathy.

The state of Arizona has a long list of conditions that qualify a person to be eligible for a medical marijuana card, right now autism is not on the list.  

Williams was able to get qualified as a caregiver because her son had seizures, which are on the list.

"He was having abnormal eye movements and head drops and arched his back at least 7-15 times a day, some of them were absent seizures that cannot be detected by the eye," Williams said.

She said she went through the merry-go-around of prescription pills prescribed by doctors for all of her son's medical conditions.

"He was having rages increased with the medication," Williams said.

Other moms said prescription drugs made their children lethargic and non-functional. 

Williams said she noticed a huge difference in her child just 20 minutes after giving him his first dose of medical marijuana extract.

"Within 20 minutes of my son's first dose his stiff, rigid hand flapping, his constant teeth grinding, the jumping up and down, flapping of hands all of his aggressive movements completely stopped," Williams said.

She said she was amazed that the medical marijuana she had gotten to help her child with seizures was also affecting his autism.

After six months, Williams said her son's score dropped by 64 points on a test administered to children with autism. He was at the highest score before.

Despite all the testimony, many are strongly against prescribing medical marijuana to children.  

Lawyers arguing against it at an administrative hearing on Tuesday pointed out that the drug was not FDA approved, and by federal law, still considered an illegal substance.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and Autism Society also did not support the use of cannabis to treat autism spectrum disorder, citing lack of research on the subject.

"Let's look at the research they do have on the cocktail of drugs they give our children. Let's look at the third most reported adverse side effect from Risperdal, which is death. That's an FDA approved drug. There has never been anybody that's died from cannabis," Williams said.

Erica Smith, who had a 6-year-old child diagnosed with autism said she just started administering medical marijuana to her son Enoch about a month ago.  

He qualified for the card because of epilepsy.

"We would wake up every day ready for chaos. Chaos is the best way to say it because we didn't know what emotions he was going to present. Typically he would wake up screaming. There was a point where we would wear shooting ear protections because he screamed so much," Smith said.

After years of trying different programs and therapies, Smith said medical marijuana was the only thing that had brought instant relief to their son.  

"I would say it's brought peace into our home. Comfort for our son, he seems like he's comfortable in his body now," Smith said.

Also at the hearing were mothers who were not able to get medical marijuana cards for their children yet.  

They were fighting for the right to administer what is considered a "miracle" drug by so many moms in their shoes. 

"I'm here because I live in Arizona and I do not want to move somewhere else just to get access. I want to get it right here in my state where I have family," said Brittaney Crank, who had a 10-year-old daughter with autism.

Mother Angela Wilson said many of them felt they had no other choice.

"The only other choice we have is pharmaceutical drugs which haven't worked or a group home for our children," Wilson said.

The hearing is expected to continue on Wednesday.

ABC15 Arizona reached out to the state health department for information on this hearing. A spokesman sent us this statement:

"ADHS cannot speak about a hearing that is in process. ADHS accepts petitions to add a debilitating medical condition to the list of debilitating medical conditions for the Medical Marijuana Program in January and July of each year. Detailed information about submitting a petition for the addition of a debilitating medical condition can be found online here A.R.S §36-2801.01 [azleg.gov] and here A.A.C. R9-17-106 [azdhs.gov]."

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