Georgia's complicated relationship with medical marijuana came to a frightening head last month, when a 15-year-old using cannabis to control dangerous epileptic seizures was separated from his parents and sent to a group home, all because of the controversial plant.
According to the New York Times, Suzeanna and Matthew Brill first introduced their epileptic son David to medical marijuana earlier this year, and quickly found that the all-natural substance was effective in stemming the teenager's daily seizures. After 71 days of cannabis use without a single seizure, the Brill family had finally found a treatment that worked.
But while all of David's doctors had agreed that cannabis was working wonders for the teen, David's therapist was apparently not as open to the concept of medical marijuana. After Suzeanna told the therapist about the family's successful experimentation with weed, the doctor called authorities, and police visited the Brill's home just hours later.
Upon arrival, the Brills admitted to the local Twiggs County officers that they had been giving David marijuana to treat his epilepsy, at which point the cops drug tested the shocked trio and demanded that David stop using cannabis. Like clockwork, the teenager's violent seizures returned just 14 hours later, causing the family to rush David to the hospital.
"We complied, and within 14 hours of complying we were rushing our son to the hospital," Suzeanna Brill told the Times. "And it was one of the most horrific seizures I've ever seen."
David remained in the hospital for a week before he was taken by state authorities to a local group home while both of his parents were arrested and carted off to jail for charges of reckless conduct. Now, after spending six days behind bars in April, the Brills are locked in a legal battle to both defend their actions and regain custody of their son.
And while Georgia joined a number of states around the country by proposing CBD-focused medical marijuana laws in 2015 — aimed to specifically help children like David who suffer from epilepsy — Peach State legislators have followed up that limited law with a number of barriers to prevent any real legal access to the medicine.
Currently, over 1,000 children are registered in Georgia's medical marijuana program, but without any permitted cannabis growers, producers, or retailers anywhere in the state, it is next-to-impossible for even registered patients to procure the medicine that they need.
Patients or their parents can attempt to purchase industrial hemp-derived CBD products from health food stores or internet retailers, but without proper regulations (not to mention questionable ingredients and a still-tenuous legal status), those oils, tinctures, and edibles are also hard to rely on for intense medical needs.
Despite the success that the Brill family found with cannabis, David has now been in a state-run group home, away from his life-altering medication, for more than a month. Suzeanna and Matthew continue to fight the criminal charges and assertion that they are unfit parents, but say that it could take up to a year before they can reunite with their son.
Still, Matthew is adamant that he and his wife have done nothing wrong, and that David's well-being is still far more important to them than Georgia's arbitrary marijuana laws.
"Even with the ramifications with the law, I don't care," Matthew Brill told the Times. "For 71 days [my son] was able to ride a bike, go play, lift weights. We were able to achieve that with David medicated not from Big Pharma, but David medicated with marijuana."
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If reunited, Suzeanna Brill has said that she and her husband would like to move David to a state where medical marijuana is entirely legal and accessible.
You can help the Brill family's legal fight against Georgia by donating to their GoFundMe page here.
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