Minnesota family may follow others to Colorado for medical marijuana


Amelia Weaver had been developing like any other child when she was stricken by a seizure. The family and a pediatrician figured it has been the result of a high fever, but the immobilizing fits came back and over the years intensified.

Further testing showed that the little girl from Hibbing, unable to talk or walk on her own, was suffering from Dravet syndrome, a rare and crippling form of epilepsy.

"Getting this diagnosis, it's like, here's the things that will help her but you can't get to any of them," says her mother Angie. "You live in Minnesota. Sorry. Move."

They just might -- to Colorado, where the proper medicine is available.

SEE ALSO: When will medical marijuana be legal in Minnesota?

In just a few weeks, the Minnesota legislature will begin debating a medical marijuana bill that has the backing of the people but the ire of top law enforcement officials, with whom Governor Mark Dayton has gone on record siding.

If he delays or kills the bill, the Weaver family could follow in the footsteps of at least two previous Minnesota families, according Jesse Stanley, a board member for the Colorado-based Realm of Caring Foundation.

Stanley and his brothers are cannabis breeders who possess a strain that's so low in THC -- and so high in CBD, a non-psychoactive compound -- it's technically classified as hemp. The plant has been dubbed Charlotte's Web, and it's seen as an elixir for the families of children who suffer from Dravet.

"It's pretty crazy that these families have to move," Stanley says, "and unfortunate that our government is still in the mindset that this is a dangerous plant."

Former oil workers, the Stanley brothers have become the prophets of pediatric pot, and Jesse speaks of his work in religious tones: "We're blessed to be a part of the re-education of people who thought there was nothing to it."

At present, the foundation treats 300 patients, with hundreds more on the waiting list, some of whom have relocated from states that permits medical marijuana but don't possess a strain that's suitable for children. It's been shown not only to help children control their seizures, when traditional antiepileptic medication fails, but to regain cognitive functions.

With all the attention from out of state, Colorado health officials want to offer $7.1 million in research grants to look into the medicinal qualities of marijuana and its derivatives. Although the feds aren't exactly supportive, the fact that they've allowed Colorado -- as well as Washington -- to take marijuana to a recreational level without interference suggests that the War on Drugs is waning.

It continues to rage in Minnesota and, in particular, Hennepin County, where blacks are nine times more likely than whites to be arrested and charged with possession, according to an ACLU report released last year.

As a medical issue, marijuana reform could soon be on its way here. An unlikely coalition of politicians and grassroots activists stands poised to push the medical issue onto the governor's desk and pressure him -- in the shadow of his re-election campaign -- into signing it.

Some families say they've already met with Dayton behind closed doors, and the Weavers are hoping to do the same.

"Amelia does not have to live this way," Angie says of her seven-year-old daughter. "She deserves safe, legal access to the medicine that can change her life now."

Read more about the political machinations of marijuana in this week's cover, and the little known statute compelling drug dealers to pay their taxes.

-- Follow Jesse Marx on Twitter @marxjesse or send tips to [email protected]