Five years ago, a Southern California mother decided that in order to save the life of her son with severe autism, she needed to turn to medical marijuana.
Joey Hester-Perez was diagnosed with autism at 16 months, and later with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. His symptoms became worse as he got older, and more and more medications were added to his regimen until he was taking 13 different drugs every day. When Joey was 9 years old, ABC 7 in Los Angeles says, doctors told his mother to plan his funeral.
"I couldn't bear that," Mieko Hester-Perez said. "I couldn't imagine my life without Joey." Instead, she decided to give medical marijuana a try. It took trying about 15 different strains before the right one was found, but as soon as Joey's Strain, as it's now called, was concocted, the change was immediate. Joey began to smile, laugh, and joke with his in-home nurse. He gained weight, calmed down, and was no longer on edge. Today, Joey eats one brownie every week that contains cannabis oil derived from Joey's Strain, and his mother is sharing the positive results with other families.
"We need to open the door to more research so we can do this the right way," she told ABC 7. The few studies on autism and medical marijuana in the U.S. are focusing on cannabinoids, the active molecules found in marijuana, but it's very difficult to get started; according to doctors, they must "navigate a maze of bureaucratic red tape and receive permission from multiple federal agencies."
Mieko hopes that the rules are loosened, so more strides can be made and other children like Joey can have improved lives. "He may never walk, he may never form a sentence, he may never throw a ball," she said. "But he will smile, and that's all I've ever wanted." --Catherine Garcia