At 18 years old, our son Blake was assaulted, resulting in a traumatic brain injury that led to dozens of seizures a week, post-traumatic stress, memory loss, severe migraines and other side effects that he’ll live with for the rest of his life.
Following Blake’s injury, we watched his quality of life deteriorate. We saw his ambition to become a national sports broadcaster fade away. In its place was a vicious spiral of confusion, fear and pain that erased the person he used to be and left us struggling to find answers.
The answer came in a form we would have never expected: medical cannabis. But it saved our son’s life and gave us our family back.
That’s not hyperbole. It’s not sensationalism. It’s just the truth that some people choose not to see.
There are tens of thousands of people like him in Texas — people living with debilitating diseases and chronic conditions, locked in never-ending battles to find some semblance of normalcy or relief.
As a family, our inability to provide either was devastating. No parent should have to experience the powerlessness that comes with watching a child suffer.
And yet, there are tens of thousands of parents and caregivers like us in Texas.
The dozens of medications he was prescribed didn’t work; the side effects were often as severe as the symptoms they were alleged to treat. A typical day for him involved several seizures, constant pain, sleep and, if he was lucky, a few hours playing XBOX.
A couple of years ago, the pain and despair became too much. One day, he told his mom he was thinking about killing himself.
Today, Blake spends most days outside on our Central Texas ranch, tending gardens or spending time with his girlfriend. Together, they cultivate more than 150 varieties of flowers and vegetables. He arranges flowers for weddings and other events.
It sounds like two different people, and in many ways, it is. His progress can be attributed to one change in his treatment: a medical cannabis prescription through the Texas Compassionate Use Program (CUP). After Blake told us he was feeling suicidal, we asked his physicians if there were any other treatment options available. They introduced us to one of the state’s only medical cannabis providers, Texas Original Compassionate Cultivation. Until that point, cannabis, in our view, was an illicit drug we never wanted our son to touch, much less something our family would advocate for in multiple legislative sessions on behalf of thousands of Texans who deserve the same access that he has.
“Medical cannabis gives Blake the opportunity to live the best life he can. We see more and more of the kid he used to be, and we thank God for it every day.”
He isn’t and will never be entirely pain-free, and some days are still harder than others. He still suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic migraines, epilepsy and other symptoms that he will live with forever. Existing limitations of the CUP require him to consume nearly a cup of carrying oil every day to reach his prescribed dosage, which has led to gastrointestinal complications. This journey is far from over.
But Blake might not be here today without access to the CUP. In that sense, we’re very lucky. However, there are tens of thousands of people in Texas who, under existing laws, will never be afforded that same opportunity to exhaust every treatment option, to pursue every path to find relief.
Access to the life-changing power of medical cannabis for Texans like Blake is still dictated by politics. Legislators decide if and how much medical cannabis is right for our son and others like him — not the doctors who build his treatment plan or the pharmacologists studying the growing list of cannabis’s potential medical benefits.
How many more of our fellow Texans could find hope and relief if we opened our minds and hearts to their struggles? How many more Texans could we help if we reserved judgement and listened to the stories of people whose lives medical cannabis changed for the better? How much suffering could we end if we gave physicians every tool available to effectively treat their patients and improve their quality of life?
The science is evident, but the power and truth of medical cannabis are felt most through the people in our communities who benefit from it. Before we jump to conclusions about people or perpetuate myths or stereotypes, we should hear from those very people what their lives were like before a medical cannabis prescription and after it.
We’re sharing our story because, in the darkest period of our lives, we found compassion and hope where we thought there was none. The countless Texans who still don’t qualify for medical cannabis deserve the same chance.
Our state legislators — and we as constituents — have the power to give it to them.