A Florida woman says state laws prohibiting medical marijuana have forced her to choose between being a good citizen and being a good mother, reported The Tampa Bay Times.
“I have said it a thousand times: I will not bury my son,” Renee Petro told the newspaper. “But I should not, not for a split second, have to think about doing something illegal to be a good mother. We live in the United States of America.”
Marijuana could alleviate the frequent seizures that Petro’s 13-year-old suffers daily and put him at risk of further brain damage.
Florida lawmakers passed a bill that year that legalizes Charlotte’s Web, a form of medical marijuana that does not produce a high, but it remains unavailable until political and legal battles are resolved.
The 36-year-old Petro said she understands that pot remains illegal in Florida, and she does not want to break the law, but she said the legal medicines available to treat her son are just as dangerous as his epilepsy.
Branden was diagnosed with febrile infection-related epilepsy syndrome in 2011, after he developed what appeared to be a routine fever.
The boy had a seizure several days later and fell into a coma, and the seizures have never stopped.
Doctors aren’t sure what causes that type of epilepsy, and they currently treat the condition with antipsychotics and other high-dose drugs that carry severe side effects.
“It isn’t the disease that is taking Branden away from me — it’s the medications that are taking him,” Petro told the newspaper. “How many times have we had to watch him be suicidal or the times he saw things that aren’t there?”
She has heard marijuana has helped other children with epilepsy, and Petro said her son went three weeks without a seizure in October during a trial under a doctor’s care in California, where medical marijuana is legal.
Physicians said clinical trials are needed to confirm the “very strong anecdotal evidence” that marijuana helps children with epilepsy, the Times reported, but they say the benefits appear to be legitimate.
“If it was available, I would prescribe it next week,” said Dr. Selim Benbadis, director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Program at University of South Florida and Tampa General Hospital.
Petro, whose husband is an active-duty Army colonel who is deployed overseas, said she will move to California later this year with her son and 10-year-old daughter.
She doesn’t expect miracles, but she hopes medical marijuana might help her son – who has been mentally disabled by the seizures – to live a more normal life.
“I am disgusted at Florida,” Petro said. “None of the politicians care about us — they don’t know how it is. They don’t live it every day. Sleep next to my son and watch him seize — then you tell me if you would do something illegally.”
Watch this video report posted online by the Tampa Bay Times: