Florida's first medical marijuana is now available, but patients say the wait for healing is not over

Florida's first medical marijuana is now available, but patients say the wait for healing is not over

Anneliese Clark's house doesn't stand out among her neighbors' in her suburban neighborhood outside Jacksonville. Down the street and around the cul-de-sac, the two-story dwellings each have a manicured lawn, multiple cars in a long driveway and a shady tree. Inside Clark's house, the mother of four has two dogs, a lively kitchen and a black refrigerator plastered with photos of her kids.

That fridge is where the differences start. Among the snapshots of her children, Clark has attached a piece of paper she calls her "arrest plan."

The plan is a list of names, numbers and information that could be helpful if Clark is arrested for buying medical marijuana for her youngest, 11-year-old Christina. Unable to talk, Christina curls up in a fetal position in her mom's lap, occasionally throwing this reporter a blue-eyed peek and a small smile. Her seizures began three months after she was born, and her first anti-epileptic drug was phenobarbital. Doctor after doctor prescribed drug after drug for her. Christina's seizures, sometimes 80 to 100 per day, waxed and waned, depending on her current drug and diet. The family traveled to Germany and China for stem cell treatments; in one year, Christina had three brain surgeries, which left her with half a brain and the family with $2 million in medical bills. The last drug, No. 16, left Christina without the ability to walk or go the bathroom, so they decided to insert a feeding tube.

At one point, doctors told Clark just to take her daughter home and love her.

But then, through social media and word of mouth, Clark learned about the use of medical marijuana-based oils to treat kids with seizures and about Charlotte Figi, a Colorado girl whose seizures were reduced from 300 a week to about twice a month using oils from a marijuana strain later named after her: Charlotte's Web. The strain is low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical that creates a euphoric high, but it has increased amounts of cannabidiol (CBD), which reportedly has medical benefits. Since 2013, when Charlotte's story first aired on CNN, many parents have decided to try medical marijuana to treat their children.

For Christina, the results were astounding. She stopped having hundreds of seizures per week, then stopped having them for months.

"She would have died had I not intervened," Clark says as Christina gives her a kiss on the cheek. Clark says her daughter lost the ability to give kisses for years. "That's how bad she was. I did what I felt was right for her, and that was to try whatever I could, which turned out to be the least harmful and most beneficial."


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