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Children don’t come with owner’s manuals. But if they did, the manuals might have a chapter entitled “When to give your child marijuana.” My husband Alan and I could have used that chapter as we coped with our (then) 14-year-old daughter Ashley’s concussion/traumatic brain injury (TBI), and her accompanying debilitating headaches.

Luckily, our family lives in Colorado, where medical marijuana became legal on November 7, 2000, when 54 percent of Colorado voters approved Amendment 20.

While this “grass roots” revolution was taking place, I was not pro-marijuana, let alone engaged. I lived far up in the mountains with Alan and our perfect newborn baby away from all the hippies who had gone “pot crazy.” I had no idea that what was happening would later help heal my child and make our family whole again.

Before I relate the details of our story, let me say this to America’s policymakers: Get out of the way! Marijuana has performed too many medical miracles for you to be able to stop it from becoming legal nationwide.

Ashley suffered two concussions, for which she was treated for three years by four different specialists. They tried everything that conventional, FDA-approved medicine had to offer. None of it did anything to relieve her headaches.

Finally, out of sheer desperation, we gave our daughter medical marijuana. Within minutes, Ashley’s headache was gone — and at a nominal cost.

As we struggled with our daughter’s condition, I got the opportunity to compare the results produced by three very different approaches to concussion treatment:

1. REAP (resting, education, accommodations, pace). Six months of this method produced only minimal improvement in Ashley’s condition, and left her still suffering from incapacitating headaches.

2. Prescription drugs. These proved expensive, toxic, and completely ineffective. At one point, we hospitalized Ashley and she was given intravenous drugs (anti-convulsant drugs, anti-inflammatory drugs, and anti-histamines). They did not work. In fact, after regaining consciousness in the hospital, Ashley’s headache was worse.

3. Cannabidiol. CBD, which is derived from marijuana, proved to be non-toxic, and it relieved Ashley’s incapacitating headache within 30 minutes. We eventually began supplementing the CBD with THC (which is the psychoactive agent in marijuana) to obtain more comprehensive relief of our daughter’s concussion symptoms.

One medical treatment that we refused was anti-depressants, which were recommended several times by several doctors over a 2-year period.

Yes, Ashley was probably depressed. After all, she had lost her identity as an athlete and as a scholar. However, numbing Ashley out would not have done anything for her TBI, and we were concerned about the risks of anti-depressants.

Desperate for a solution, we spent hours searching the internet for some option that had not been offered by our medical professionals, and discovered CBD. Thirty minutes after we gave Ashley approximately 20 mg of it, I heard the sweetest words I could imagine: “Mom! Mom! My headache is gone, like I mean really gone!” Ashley had experienced relief from her acute concussion headache for the first time in months. Her emerald green eyes were clear and bright, and she was smiling. I had not seen that smile in a very long time.

These positive results inspired us to pursue a medical marijuana card from the State of Colorado, so that we could begin supplementing the CBD with THC.

We have been conservative regarding THC use, since there is incomplete data on the impact of THC on the developing brain. However, I feel much safer giving my daughter small doses of CBD and THC than traditional, potent pharmaceuticals — none of which worked, anyway.

Marijuana has been the key to Ashley’s recovery. Not only has it eliminated her severe and constant headaches, but it has also reduced inflammation in her brain and has stimulated healing. Ashley, in teenager fashion, tells us like it is: “Forget about what you think you know about marijuana and start looking at how much it is helping people — people like me. Open up your eyes, it really works!”

The Tenth Amendment provides that the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people. The Commerce Clause grants the federal government the authority to regulate commerce between the states, but not within the states. The voters of Colorado chose to legalize the use of marijuana within our state’s borders, so, in principle, the federal government has no constitutional jurisdiction over this activity.

Unfortunately, the threat of federal enforcement of national laws against marijuana impacts many aspects of commerce, including taxes, leases, banking, and loans.

On January 4, 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Department of Justice would rescind the “Cole Memo,” which laid out the prior administration’s intention to look the other way when it came to enforcing federal law, which classifies marijuana as a “Schedule 1” drug. (In other words, marijuana is classified as having no medical value and a high potential for abuse, putting it in the same category as heroin, and a more restricted one than cocaine and methamphetamine.)

In response to the Sessions statement, Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) co-authored a bill that would give states the right to determine the best approach to marijuana. President Trump has expressed his support for this bill. The measure is called the “Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act” (STATES).

STATES would not legalize marijuana. Rather, it would amend to the Controlled Substance Act, such that any person acting in compliance with state, territory, or tribal law would escape most federal restrictions. STATES would also exclude industrial hemp from the federal definition of marijuana, but would keep intact several constraints on the industry, such as the legal age to distribute or consume marijuana.

Analysts on both the Left and the Right agree that a federalism-based solution addresses the power struggle between the states and the federal government, and gives power back to the people.

Legalized marijuana saved our daughter. Think of how many others could be saved should the STATES bill pass.

Donna Sage, M.S.S.A. (donna@coloradosage.net), is a mother, wife, and health educator who lives in Denver, Colorado.  

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