Around the world, mothers are on the frontlines of demanding legal access to cannabis products for their children who suffer from epilepsy and other ailments. Often, these mothers have risked their freedom to provide medicine for their offspring. Sometimes they have actually shamed the authorities into changing the law — but still face the prospect of prison time.
At the Global Marijuana March held in Peru’s capital city of Lima this past weekend, a group of brave mothers had the place of pride.
The collective of mothers, who have formed an organization called Buscando Esperanza (Seeking Hope) for mothers who produce cannabis oil for their ailing children, made national headlines in Spanish newspapers last year when their grow-room and makeshift laboratory in a Lima apartment was busted. In the subsequent outcry, a campaign was launched to get a medical marijuana law passed in Peru — which achieved its aim in November. However, implementing regulations for the law remain delayed. Pressing the government to finally move on this was a key demand of the Lima marijuana march, as was insisting that the regulations protect the right to home cultivation.
Aydé Farfán, a leading member of Buscando Esperanza, issued a video statement urging support for the Global Marijuana March that was actually posted in Lima’s most conservative major newspaper, El Comercio — a sure sign of changing times. In it, Farfán says that her daughter Alexandra has been using cannabis oil for nearly two years to control her seizures, after numerous pharmaceuticals failed to work. “Medicinal cannabis has returned quality of life to my daughter,” she states in the video.
Ana Alvarez, another Buscando Esperanza mother, is actually facing charges over the bust of the group’s operation last year. She may yet face prison time, despite becoming the public face of the successful campaign to legalize medical marijuana in Peru. Her son Anthony suffers from a severe form of epilepsy. Ahead of the Marijuana March, she told EuroNews: “Medical marijuana is legal in our country, it is recognized as medicine. We have achieved that in a short time, exactly seven months, the law of medical marijuana has been drawn up, now we’re just waiting for the regulation.”
She didn’t mention that she is also waiting to see if she will be convicted on cultivation charges.
Buscando Esperanza is part of a South American international network of mothers who cultivate cannabis, appropriately named Mamá Cultiva. The network’s president, Valeria Salech of Buenos Aires, similarly broke the law to produce cannabis oil for her son Emiliano — and her personal lobbying similarly won a medical marijuana law in Argentina in March 2017. She was also quoted in EuroNews ahead of the Global Marijuana March — and, like her counterparts in Peru, protested that implementation of the law was being delayed by bureaucratic hold-ups.
Another trail-blazing South American mom is Margarete de Santos Brito of Rio de Janiero, who went to court for the right to grow medical marijuana for her seizure-stricken daughter Sofia in 2016. After a legal battle, Brito became one of just three Brazilians with the right to grow medicinal cannabis at home.
Jumping across the Atlantic to the British Isles, a similar victory is reported from Ireland. “Medical marijuana refugee” Ava Barry, 8, arrived back home in County Cork from The Netherlands late last year after her parents succeeded in pressuring the Dublin government for a medical marijuana license. This came after two years of petitioning the government, during which the family spent much time in Holland so that Ava could receive her treatment. Ava’s mother Vera Twomey told the Irish Examiner as the family arrived home, “We have had no ordinary life whatsoever… I can’t believe it has finally happened.”
Across the Irish Sea in England, mom Hannah Deacon of Warwickshire has just submitted yet another application to the UK’s Home Office for a license for her six-year-old daughter Alfie Dingley to use cannabis oil. Alfie is still suffering up to 150 seizures per month, according to BBC News. In March, Deacon and her family marched to 10 Downing Street, the seat of the British government in London, to personally deliver a petition demanding their right to medicine.
A similar case is also reported from Scotland. Mom Karen Gray of Edinburgh is likewise pressing the Home Office to allow the use of cannabis oil for her five-year-old son Murray — who can have up to 12 seizures a day, and has been hospitalized for all but two weeks of this year. Gray has now launched a petition calling for a change in the law, the BBC reports.
Finally, there are such cases in the United States, of course. Seattle-based mother Meagan Holt calls her five-year-old daughter Madeline a “case for cannabis,” the city’s Fox affiliate Q13 reports. Maddie has Zellweger Syndrome, a terminal genetic disease that destroys the white matter in her brain. When Maddie was two years old, doctors gave her just week to live. With the help of cannabis, Maddie has made it past her fifth birthday, Holt says. “Maddie uses high THC cannabis oil,” Holt told Q13. “And no it’s not getting her high. The pharmaceutical drugs that were prescribed to her, those were getting her high.”
The Holt family is lucky to have access to cannabis oil. Some stateside moms are still fighting for that right — and even, perversely, in states that have medical marijuana laws. Earlier this year, a Virginia hospital suspended treatment of a boy suffering from Niemann-Pick disease (which attacks the brain and other internal organs) after his mother used CBD oil to ease his seizures. And Virginia law allows medical use of CBD (although not THC or herbaceous cannabis). Despite the law, Children’s Hospital of Richmond removed young Kaden Hartman from a clinical trial of a new drug that could save his life, because he was also on CBD. The boy’s mother, Kathy Hartman, said after she got the news: “I didn’t think it would be this hard. I just want what’s best for my child.”
It is women like these who give the fight for access to cannabis a moral weight and authority that the powerful have found hard to resist, even in conservative countries like Peru. We will soon see if supposedly more liberal places like England and the United States will follow.
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