Controversy over parents treating severely autistic son with medical marijuana
An Oregon family has turned to medical marijuana to manage their son's severe autistic rage, KPTV reported.
Alex Echols, 11, is severely autistic, and his doctor said Alex's self-destructive behavior is brought on by tuberous sclerosis, a rare, genetic disorder that affects about 50,000 people in the U.S.
The disorder causes unregulated growth of non-malignant tissue in organs. In Alex's case, his neurologist said growths in Alex's brain have led to seizures and autism.
Echols said by the time Alex was 5, he exhibited intense, self-directed rage. Echols showed us home videos of the rage. He said they videotaped the episodes to show doctors the injuries were self-inflicted.
His parents got him a helmet to protect his head, swaddled him like a newborn and tried mood-altering drugs to control the behavior, with little success. When he was eight years old, the Echols made the heartbreaking decision to move Alex into a state-funded group home.
But was there a way to help him? In late 2009, the Echols said they saw a television news story about a California woman who was using medical marijuana to treat her autistic son. The Echols researched Oregon's medical marijuana program, and in 2010, a doctor approved Alex for medical marijuana use.
Alex is now one of 58 minors currently protected under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act. While autism is not a qualifying medical condition like cancer or severe pain, in Alex's case, his seizures were.
And after a few months of treatment, the Echols said they saw a dramatic improvement.
Echols said Alex's group home will not administer the marijuana, so, about three times a week off-site, his parents give Alex a liquid form of the drug by mouth.
While Dr. Colin Roberts, Alex's doctor and a pediatric neurologist at Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland, did not condone the treatment, he said he understood the family's desire to help their child.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has circulated a resolution that opposes the use of medical marijuana in children. Dr. Sharon Levy, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Boston's Children's Hospital and chairwoman of the AAP's committee on substance abuse, told FOX 12 marijuana is toxic to children's developing brains. She also said enough isn't known about the drug's long-term effects.
The Echols have set up a Facebook page that chronicles Alex's journey. You can find their blog at www.facebook.com/alex.autism.rage.mmj.
7-year-old girl one of Oregon's youngest medical marijuana patients
Her mother says she gives her daughter marijuana pills to combat the effects of chemotherapy, but her father, who lives in North Dakota, worries about the effects of the drug on her brain development.
Mykayla Comstock was diagnosed with leukemia last spring. Her mother treats her with a gram of cannabis oil daily, The Oregonian reported.
Mykayla's mother credits the drug for the leukemia's remission. "As a mother, I am going to try anything before she can potentially fall on the other side," said Erin Purchase, 25, who with her boyfriend administers Mykayla's cannabis.
The girl says the drug helps her eat and sleep but also makes her feel "funny."
"It helps me eat and sleep," Mykayla said. "The chemotherapy makes you feel like you want to stay up all night long."
Mykayla's father, who is divorced from the girl's mother, was so disturbed by his daughter's marijuana use that he contacted child welfare officials, police and her oncologist. The father, Jesse Comstock, said his concerns were prompted by a visit with Mykayla in August.
"She was stoned out of her mind," said Comstock, 26. "All she wanted to do was lay on the bed and play video games."
Comstock, who works in a North Dakota oil field, pays child support to Purchase and covers Mykayla's health insurance. He said he observed strange behavior during an August visit and took Mykayla to a private lab, where technicians detected THC levels of an adult daily marijuana user.
Gladstone police contacted the girl's mother, examined Mykayla's medical marijuana paperwork, then told Comstock there was little they could do.
Comstock, who used pot in the past, said he doesn't object to people over 16 using medical marijuana.
But he worries about his daughter's well-being and the potential for addiction.
"She's not terminally ill," Comstock said. "She is going to get over this, and with all this pot, they are going to hinder her brain growth.
"It's going to limit her options in life because of the decisions her mother has made for her," he added.
Oregon law requires no monitoring of a child's medical marijuana use by a pediatrician.
The law instead invests authority in parents to decide the dosage, frequency and manner of a child's marijuana consumption.
Many doctors worry about introducing a child to marijuana when they say other drugs can treat pain and nausea more effectively. Purchase believes marijuana heals, and credits the drug for curing her stepfather's skin cancer.
She herself is an Oregon medical marijuana patient, and her boyfriend is Mykayla's grower. She is so convinced of the drug's safety that she consumed it during the pregnancy and while breastfeeding her second child.
When her symptoms are especially bad, Mykayla's mother and her mother's boyfriend will feed her cannabis-infused food. She's had up to 1.2 grams of cannabis oil in 24 hours, the rough equivalent of smoking 10 joints.
Purchase said Mykayla's first oncologist called the marijuana use "inappropriate."
With marijuana, Purchase said her daughter has been able to fight past the chemotherapy and return to a sense of normalcy.
"She's like she was before," her mother said. "She's a normal kid."
Effort supports marijuana to treat PTSD
According to advocates, many people with PTSD are already in the state program because they have other medical conditions that allow them to legally use marijuana.
But supporters want PTSD to be recognized as a standalone condition as more veterans return home and struggle to resume their lives, The Oregonian reports. Oregon is home to an estimated 300,000 veterans. They include more than 20,000 from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, according to the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
Two earlier attempts to add PTSD to Oregon’s program have failed.
Law enforcement entities in the state generally oppose expansion of the program.
Medical marijuana’s potential to help sick veterans deserves serious examination, according to Jason Hansman, senior program manager for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
“We treat it like any other new treatment technique: We want to see it studied. We want to see increased research to see if it’s a viable solution," said Hansman, whose group represents 145,000 veterans.
Darryl Inaba, director of clinical and behavioral health services at the Addictions Recovery Center in Medford, opposes expanding Oregon’s medical marijuana program to include PTSD saying the drug “causes both physical and emotional addiction."
For some veterans, medical marijuana helps them function.
Jared Townsend, a 27-year-old Iraq War veteran, said the drug helps him sleep and “balance life out a little bit better."
Townsend, of Hillsboro, qualifies for medical marijuana because of severe pain from a ruptured disc and injured shoulder from his 2007-08 combat tour. Medical marijuana is a bigger help with his PTSD symptoms, he said.
“If I get racing thoughts and real worked up, it can break a panic attack pretty quick," Townsend said.
Seventeen states and Washington, D.C., have medical marijuana laws. Only a few, however, list PTSD as a qualifying condition.
In New Mexico, which legalized medical marijuana in 2007, the state’s Department of Health said 40 percent of medical marijuana patients list PTSD as their qualifying condition, far more than any other condition.
Medical marijuana a low priority, Oregon's new U.S. Attorney says
Drug trafficking more dangerous, she says
PORTLAND— The proliferation of dispensary-style medical marijuana operations in Oregon concerns the state’s new U.S. Attorney, but she said she’s unwilling to devote much time or money to prosecuting a criminal activity that’s low on her list of priorities.
U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall said the number of dispensaries in Oregon has been growing. Her office estimates the state hosts at least 100, most of which are in the Portland metro area.
In 2010, Marshall’s predecessor joined his counterparts in other medical marijuana states by sending warning letters to operations it felt were the most egregious offenders of the state’s medical marijuana law, threatening them — or their landlords — with civil asset forfeiture if they didn’t close shop.
The problem, Marshall said, is that Oregon’s medical marijuana law was passed without any enforcement power or extra money for local agencies to crack down on the worst actors.
“I don’t know that the law itself is the problem, so much as the lack of oversight in terms of the medical marijuana grows and distribution,” Marshall said Friday. “When you look at it, you’ve (had) a handful of prosecutions and you’ve got over 100 dispensaries, there’s no oversight.
“They passed this law, and there’s no additional resources or funding mechanisms for law enforcement.”
Medical marijuana took center stage in Oregon politics last week when it emerged as a flashpoint in the Democratic primary for state attorney general.
Former interim U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton had criticized the state program as a ”train wreck,” mobilizing marijuana advocates to lobby against him. It’s impossible to tell whether the issue played a role in Holton’s loss to retired judge Ellen Rosenblum, but it accounted for at least one-quarter of Rosenblum’s fundraising.
Marshall said she wouldn’t use the words ”train wreck” to describe Oregon’s law.
“I’m not here to say this law is good or bad or to suggest future legislation or future policy direction,“ said Marshall, who took office in October. ”People say, ‘You’re the U.S. attorney, are you going to go after medical marijuana?’ No I’m not. I don’t care about medical marijuana.“
Dr. Phil Leveque Salem-News.com 5.24
Too bad they know so little.
(MOLALLA, Ore.) - I am constantly confounded by the Oregon legislators regarding MMJ and the attitude of the marijuana-phobes in the police and the legislature.
The Oregon law is one of the more restrictive in the nation and it is a model for most other states. The police associations wimper and cry that "marijuana is out of control" while it isn't, comparing it to heroin, cocaine, meth and even alcohol which really are the problems but apparently they have tunnel vision of marijuana only.
Ask anyone but the marijuana-phobe police and they will tell you that the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) is going well. Well, it is.
Representative Andy Olson, a retired policeman says, "I am not trying to kill the program but ensure that the option is available for patients who need it."
Then he goes into a crocodile tear statement that, "The thing that drove most of (previous) bill was a sense of abuse in the system. We wanted to move forward with something that puts in more accountability but still protects the patient and their needs."
The present bill is even tooooo restrictive so many patients who need it cannot get it.
About 50,000 Oregonians have permits and though some of them do abuse the privilege, serious criminal activity is rare.
The new law would target users less than 18 years old. It may surprise the legislator to know that most of those are NOT medical patients but they do represent the largest group of users.
DON'T MISTAKE THEM FOR LEGAL MEDICAL MARIJUANA PATIENTS!
There are NO loose rules for the “under 18” users.
He decries the lack of a database for grow sites. There are about 30,000 of them. Does he have the police to visit them?
He also seems to believe that doctors are lax in signing for permits.
NO. NO. NO.
If the patient has a diagnosis of an acceptable medical condition, the doctor can sign their name. If it’s not acceptable to the OMMP, THEY will not issue a permit.
Applications for permits (they are not prescriptions) have been signed by about 3,500 doctors for 40,000 patients and 20,000 caregivers.
The US Government estimates that there are 300,000 marijuana users in Oregon. Doctors who sign for patients cannot keep up with the demand with legitimate medical patients. We will probably hit 50,000 medical marijuana patients this year.
In Oregon, medical pot and guns go hand in hand
But some local sheriffs don't think medical marijuana users should be allowed to obtain concealed weapons permits. The case is before the state Supreme Court.
Are there Any Releaf patients in Oregon care to respond to these claims? -UA
April 17, 2011|By Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times
Cynthia Townsley Willis, a retired school bus driver and grandmother of four, carries a spray bottle of marijuana-infused skin oil in her purse to treat her frequent, painful muscle spasms. Her Walther P22 pistol most often gets slipped into a shoulder holster under her jacket — driving the lonely roads that traverse the hills and dense woodlands of the Rogue Valley, who knows when she might need it?
Here in the pot belt of rural southern Oregon, possibly the only thing more ubiquitous than marijuana is guns, and Willis, who is legally registered with the state as a medical marijuana user, feels better when she has both.
But Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters doesn't, and he is trying to pull Willis' concealed weapons permit. Willis, a diminutive 54-year-old California native, is now one of four plaintiffs in a case before the Oregon Supreme Court to determine whether medical marijuana users are entitled to the same gun-carrying privileges as everyone else.
Sheriffs across Oregon say that the state's 13-year-old medical marijuana law has spawned tens of thousands of hobby users, and see this case as a crucial step toward preventing what they consider a dangerous mix of guns and drugs.
"This whole medical marijuana thing is a farce, and you can quote me on that," said Clatsop County Sheriff Tom Bergin, president of the Oregon State Sheriff's Assn., who believes only a fraction of the state's nearly 40,000 registered medical marijuana users have a legitimate need for the drug.
"I always ask them, 'How many times a day do you medicate?' They say it's like four or five times a day," Bergin said. "Well, that's 16 hours a day you're running around stoned. Do we even want them behind vehicles? No. Do we want them carrying around a gun? Absolutely no."
Oregon essentially requires sheriffs to issue concealed weapons permits unless the applicants have a history of violence, threats or illegal drug convictions.
The sheriffs argue that forcing them to issue the permits to marijuana users puts them in conflict with federal law, which makes it a crime for users of illegal drugs to possess a gun. Although 15 states (plus Washington, D.C.) now have medical marijuana laws, the substance remains illegal under federal law.
"We'll enforce any law that's out there, but when they're conflicting, we have to do our best to decide which of those laws has dominance," said Washington County Sheriff Rob Gordon.
Willis and others say owning and carrying a gun is an accepted part of life in rural Oregon, and that those who rely on marijuana to treat legitimate medical issues shouldn't be rendered defenseless.
In the case of Willis, who drives several miles each day from her home in rural Gold Hill to volunteer at a medical marijuana supply shop in Medford, her muscle spasms are so severe that often she can barely stand. Eating a marijuana cookie or rubbing cannabis oil on her skin is the only way she's found to relax her muscles. She never uses enough to get high, she said.
Paul Sansone from Gales Creek in Washington County, another plaintiff in the case, started carrying a concealed handgun in the 1980s for self-defense, and said the sheriff at the time actually helped him buy his gun.
Since then, the county has gotten a new sheriff, and Sansone developed a chronic gastrointestinal condition that gives him such severe nausea he is almost unable to eat. The only thing that helps is small quantities of medical marijuana.
Two trial court judges and a state appeals court sided with Sansone, Willis and the other two plaintiffs. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case in March, and is expected to rule in the coming months.
In his ruling in 2008, Circuit Court Judge Steven L. Price said the plaintiffs were "hardworking, honest, conscientious people who use medical marijuana as contemplated by the statute to alleviate pain and their symptoms. They are similarly responsible in their use and possession of weapons."
But sheriffs say there are growing questions about how to maintain public safety as medical marijuana use rapidly escalates.
"I think that 100% of our home invasion robberies have been tied to narcotics, and probably 95% of those, this is just my best guess, involve medical marijuana growers," Sheriff Gordon said. "It's just ripe for somebody to get hurt."