Pleasant Grove mom pushes for medical marijuana in Utah

Posted at 6:21 PM, Aug 28, 2013
and last updated 2013-08-28 20:21:22-04

PLEASANT GROVE -- Jennifer May describes herself as a conservative, LDS, "minivan driving" mom.

She's an unlikely face to be advocating for the legalization of medical marijuana, but she believes cannabis can help her 11-year-old son, Stockton, who suffers from Dravet Syndrome, a form of epilepsy that gives him numerous seizures a day that can last from seconds to hours.

"We've tried over 25 treatments," she said in an interview with FOX 13. "Some of those are prescription drugs. Some are imported, legally. Some are diets and some are alternative treatments... the side effects end up causing severe medical conditions and the seizures just find their way back."

Now, May is hoping medical marijuana can help her son. She is seeking relief from a strain of marijuana known as "Charlotte's Web," named after a girl in Colorado who also suffers from Dravet Syndrome. Her story gained national attention after a strain was custom-made to help children like her, and Stockton May.

"If it were just marijuana, I would have issues with that. But it's not," Jennifer May said. "It's cannabidiol, it's a part of cannabis. It's made so that's very high and the THC is very low."

May said children being treated with "Charlotte's Web" are reporting an 80-percent positive response.

But the drug is illegal in Utah. May said going to Colorado and bringing "Charlotte's Web" back to Utah would break the law -- something she is unwilling to do. (She and other moms in her situation have contemplated moving to Colorado -- at least temporarily -- to establish residency and get a medical marijuana card, though it would still be invalid here.)

Parents of children with epileptic seizures who believe medical marijuana can help have formed the group "Cannabis 4 E" (for Epilepsy) in an effort to educate and persuade lawmakers to legalize medical marijuana in Utah.

Cannabis 4E is getting support from the Libertarian-leaning think tank Libertas Institute, which put out a poll on Wednesday claiming a majority of Utah voters support the idea of medical marijuana legalization. The poll said 61-percent of Utah voters surveyed support marijuana possession if it were under a doctor's orders. But when asked about marijuana possession for recreational use, 57-percent opposed it.

Many lawmakers FOX 13 contacted for comment said they were opposed to medical marijuana legalization. Others were open to the idea of discussion. Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove, offered some support to May.

"Mounting evidence that medical-grade products derived from the cannabis plant have real medicinal benefits — from controlling cancer pain and nausea to reducing seizures — has persuaded 18 states to legalize it for medical use," he wrote on Facebook. "Shouldn't Utah's children, like Pleasant Grove's Stockton May, have access to the most effective treatments for their debilitating diseases? Let's let doctors make these decisions--instead of politicians."

Libertas Institute President Connor Boyack said he believed May's advocacy could change minds.

"It's going to be harder, I think, for legislators to look her in the eye and say, 'No, we're going to deny you by law the one treatment you believe can actually help your child," he said.