MAMMA 2014

Mother's Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism


It's all about bringing hope to a situation that is or may seem hopeless, which for most parents, can be the biggest difference of all, especially when taking care of a child afflicted with a childhood disease and/or disability. While many medical marijuana patients have the capacity to advocate for themselves, there is one demographic we should not ignore and that is the children, the children in need of a voice, the children who can benefit from the medicinal use of marijuana to treat these horrible childhood diseases. One group that has been making great strides in advocating for their children has been a group called MAMMA - Mother's Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism. We recently caught up with the founders of MAMMA, Amy Lou and Thalia, who have been a force to reckon with and have indeed become strong women leaders in the cannabis reform movement in Texas!

AUSTIN420:  Tell us about MAMMA and the initial moment that made it all come together?

AMY: I started researching this by going on the computer probably 10 years ago. I found a few really good stories but I could never find any more than those first few, and so over the years I just came to the conclusion that it must not help because we would surely be hearing about it. There were a few more stories coming up, but then the Dr. Sanjay Gupta special happened and that changed everything.

THALIA: Amy had been mentioning it to me for about a year and a half, saying she would send me links to different legal groups that had little oils and things. It never really hit me until she sent me the documentary, and then I started asking around and sure enough there were kids in California that were gaining language, focus, and cognition. From there, she had me. I had a blog called Thinking Moms Revolution where I saw other Austin moms. That gave us an initial platform to jump off feeling like, 'okay, you know there’s other moms who are going to be interested in this and we can start with that.' I was blessed enough in being Amy's friend and she thought it was worth staying on me about it. I am so grateful she did. I think in January is when I really started looking to Amy and by March I was full blown and said "let's do something."

AUSTIN420: Tell me about Autism and when you started seeing the signs in your children?

AMY: I have three children. Jack is my middle son and looking back, we knew pretty early on that he was not quite like my other kids. He was not as engaged, but there did come a point where he just stopped developing, and worse, he developed severe gut issues. Environmental and other issues basically caused him to have watery diarrhea from the age of four months and he did not have a formed bowel movement until he was 3 ½. I don't think he had a chance to develop because of his gut was just not functioning and not getting nutrients from foods; he was not getting the neurotransmitters he needed for his brain to develop. He was lethargic and drooling and completely in his own world.

THALIA: Lance is a twin and was developing physically alongside his twin sister until a year of age. He went in for a surgery at a month old for hypo-spacious. He came out and started having issues immediately after surgery and again environmental triggers and an accumulation of things. I feel the anesthesia triggered it, in addition to the usual many vaccines and formula with GMO's. There could be a host of things, but I know after surgery he was different. Saw aggression in him at 14 -16 months old. I was worried he was going to be a sociopath. He was really different and it took me a long time to get a diagnoses. We have been down the Autism road ever since.

AUSTIN420: The Republic Sate Convention in June, how was the reception with MAMMA at the convention?

THALIA: I think it is one of the highlights of our work so far, very well received. There were a lot antagonisms towards putting Medical Marijuana on the platform. It did not make the party platform, but I do know we started telling people directly about Epilepsy and Cannabinoids, that the non-psychoactive forms of the extract and the plant are truly medicinal, even making the case for whole plant. We started talking to them about special needs, it really felt like people's hearts and minds opened. I felt so courageous and had no problem telling anybody what we were doing and why; I think most people were actually quite open to hearing about it.

AUSTIN420: With your extensive traveling around America lately, what is the most positive thing you have witnessed on the Cannabis Law Reform issue?

THALIA: The individual stories, hearing from parents in California and other legal states where the kids are gaining language, focus, and cognition and where the parents have hope. This is the first treatment they have done where their kid is actually making significant gains. So, hearing those stories is the most encouraging thing. Hearing from Legislators who have been hard-nosed in the past about Medical marijuana suddenly open to hearing more and looking at research, investigating it; that is encouraging as well.

AUSTIN420: When meeting other parents of Autistic children, what are some of the views you have been getting regarding Cannabis and its medicinal benefits?

AMY: They're interested, some know and some don't know and their extremely excited when they hear about it. And then the next one is, frustration because why isn't it legal? And why are we forced to go through all these drugs  with all their difficulties and side effects? Why do we have to go through those first anyways? Why is this not the first line of defense? It's safe and it might work. All Autism parents know that there are no guarantees. I think Autism parents really get it quickly. A friend of mine who has a child who suffers with seizures has also tried every medication; this next one they want to do, one of the side effects is death. So she has a choice, she can give her kid a drug that can cause death or a drug that can make her go to jail. It's a horrible choice for any parent to have to make.

AUSTIN420: It should not even be considered an option.

AMY:  Right.

AUSTIN420: At the beginning of MAMMA starting, how did it feel in taking those first steps to start advocating for your children? How did it feel taking those first steps?

THALIA: It was an absolute no brainier. When you look at the big picture there is a clear right and wrong here. The arguments against this are all fear based; they don't hold a candle to the fears these parents have for their kids and the love these parents have for their kids. It does get discouraging sometimes. We have come up to a lot of weird strange things that we do not fully understand, but we always come back to our faith, we believe in a god that created this plant and created our endo-cannabinoid system. We believe in the parents and their children and the potential of this plant to help them. And we have no problem stepping out into our courage and saying this is right, this is what we believe in, so help me god. It's just nothing but positivity and a joy to be doing something I believe in socially.

AMY: I think the first step in advocating was when we visited the legislators for the first time; we were so nervous. We did not know how it was going to go and what to say. Now, that is our favorite thing to do. We're anxious for the kids to be in school so that we can get back and start talking to people.

THALIA: There were times that I am still absolutely afraid, but I look at my fears and will we be judged, but honestly when we come back to the heart of the matter, to what is right and what is wrong, we find our courage again and we are able to tap into that passion and our faith again.

AUSTIN420: In regards to the upcoming 2015 Texas Legislative Session, what are MAMMA's hopes? What is the impact you would like to leave with Texas Lawmakers?

THALIA: Our purpose, goal, and mission is to tell our stories, tell the truth, present all sides, and make sure people are educated about this, that they're not just voting out of ignorance and fear. If we do that much, I would say the rest will take care of itself. Whether 2015 or 2017, our mission is simple, to tell the truth about this issue. That’s what we have to give and have to do.

AMY: We want them to have courage to do the right thing, because they are afraid to do the right thing. They are interested and want to help and they are moved, but they don't know how to reconcile what they think their constituents feel and what they are hearing is happening. So we are ever more resolved to help people get in to see their constituents. They need to be educated, courageous, and they also need to look at the big picture.

THALIA: They have a lot of concerns. It's a controversial issue and I can understand. If I was in their shoes I  probably would have some fears around this issue, but I am not in their shoes and I am not afraid of this issue. I know what's right and what's wrong. I think our goal is to stay focused and hopefully we will educate and inspire to a point where people can get passed their fears.

AUSTIN420: Since you guys are conservative Christians, what has been the response from your communities?

AMY: I have spoken to one of our Pastors, they're not necessarily jumping on the band wagon but they have no judgment. A true Christian knows that Jesus healed everybody that came to him. He didn't say no to anybody. He had compassion on people and I feel that he put this plant on this earth as his way of leaving us with a chance to treat our children now; he is not here to do it himself. 

THALIA: It's really hard to argue those points that we have an endocannabinoid system; that is not an accident. We have a Cannabis plant that supports that endocanabinoid system. Does God truly make mistakes like that? I don't think so. The main point here is that the laws, as they stand, are wrong and something needs to be done about them. The research that is coming out is pretty biased towards the negative aspects of getting high and not looking at the plant truly as a medicinal element and researching it seriously on that level. Like I said, very little negative response out of the Christian community. Most people are compassionate and are open to seeing change even if they are not ready to jump on board.

AUSTIN420: In closing, what would you like to say to all the MAMMA supporters out there?

THALIA: Thank you!

AMY: Yes thank you. We've been overwhelmed with people coming forward and supporting us, liking our page, and giving us timely advice. They have taken good care of us, so we are very appreciative. Thalia and I started this because of our children having Autism, and even though our group is named MAMMA, Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism, we are fighting for all children that have disabilities that would benefit from this plant. So we would like to rename it to MAMMA for All.

THALIA: I would tag along in parenthesis Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism (and other disabilities). That is how I am kind of dealing with that right now because it is too narrow of a focus. And eventually I believe that it will effect everybody, everyone is effected by disease, everybody has something in their life they are effected by whether it is themselves or a loved one, and I believe this plant and the extracts truly can help the great majority of those on some level. This is why we are fighting for all disabilities.

AMY: But Autism is the big one. It affects 1 in 68 children and that is actually a low estimate, it's much higher than that, we believe, and the doctors don't know what to do to help them. I mean sure there are some things people can do and there are some people that have recovered their kids, but as the population gets older it's getting harder and harder to treat them.

THALIA: One of the goals we have not mentioned is to get Autism as a qualifying condition. It's not a qualifying condition in any state, and that is utterly horrific to me when so many kids are being helped by this plant and extract. The parents are having to go through difficult ways to get a hold of it. But, it is treating Autism symptoms, so we do need more research in that area. We do need Autism to be included as a qualifying condition and that is something that we are not going to stop at.

AUSTIN420: OK guys thank you!

THALIA: No, thank you Vincent. You're amazing; we're such a fan of yours, you're a super hero to us. We hold you in the greatest light of admiration. We are absolutely humbled working alongside of you.

AMY: Truly we are!

AUSTIN420: Thank you Amy and Thalia; we'll be catching up with you soon. ~

 

 


Shaking Down A Cure

SHAKING DOWN A CURE!

Imagine a child violently convulsing, looking up to you, their eyes pleading for you to help. Now imagine that being your child. What would you do? This is a reality that more and more families face every day. Pediatric epilepsy is the most common, and serious neurological problem children face, claiming about 326,000 children under 15 every year according to The American Epilepsy Society. And yet, most of the leading treatment facilities for pediatric epilepsy have the same treatment options listed, not one including cannabis oil. That is, unless you’ve heard of the Stanley brothers or The Realm of Caring and their amazing success stories of treating pediatric epilepsy patients.

Children like Charlotte Figi – Colorado’s first, and at the time being two and a half years old, Colorado’s youngest medical marijuana patient. After acquiring 2 separate doctor recommendations, Charlotte was authorized for her “red card” in Colorado, and shortly after found the Stanley brothers who now run an organization called The Realm of Caring that helps to provide support, education, resources, affordable access to their treatment program, and physician-backed medical studies. It took a bit of convincing on the Figi’s part to get the Stanley brothers to help treat little Charlotte but once they did, Charlotte went from around 300 seizures a week to one or none at all a week. The results were astounding. Not only did it nearly stop her seizures all together, but her parents also noted side effects like positive behavioral changes, increased appetite, and overall, seeming to improve her quality of life. Charlotte was able to stop taking all of her prescribed pharmaceuticals and still remains free of them two years later. Now an almost seizure-free Charlotte can horseback ride and ride her bike like every child should be able to.  The Ream of Caring renamed the strain after the success in treating Charlotte, originally called “The Hippie’s Disappointment” for its non-psychoactive effect, to what it is now known as: Charlotte’s Web. They continued on to treat forty other pediatric patients and with them came Zaki Jackson.

CHARLOTTE FIGI

Zaki suffered from Doose Syndrome a form of pediatric epilepsy and was pretty much at the end of the road with treatments, after seventeen failed treatment options, the Ketogenic Diet change, and doubling his weight from steroids, nothing had helped, or would just make it worse. They kept searching for an effective treatment, and eventually heard of child they knew named Jayden who had had success with the cannabis oil. After about four months of research, Zaki’s mom brought it to his doctor’s attention and they discussed it for some time until following an EEG (Electroencephalography) brain scan showing Zaki was having up to 200 seizures an hour; the doctor’s confirmed his diagnosis and said they were out of options. It was then, recommended by a social worker, that Heather sought out the Stanley brothers and Charlotte’s Web, and thankfully she did, because since October 4th, 2013 little Zaki has been seizure free for over a year.

It’s life-altering stories like Charlotte’s and Zaki’s that have caused The Realm of Caring to go from treating forty pediatric patients to treating over three hundred pediatric patients with Charlotte’s Web, and over two hundred more families moving to Colorado from all over to be a part of the Stanley brothers treatment plan, plus more contacting them, and being put on waiting lists every day, even from overseas! The Stanley brothers will be infiltrating California soon as well, where they have over a thousand cases of pediatric epilepsy patients waiting to be treated! And while Charlotte’s Web was originally testing at around .5% THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and 17% CBD (Cannabidiol) it is now testing at less than .3% THC qualifying it to be classified as a hemp product, meaning that because there are little to no regulations regarding hemp production, it will allow the Stanley brothers to produce more, since there will be no plant count limitations, as there is with medical marijuana allotting only six plants per patient.

CHARLOTTE'S WEB

For some families giving their children cannabis oil would be considered neglect, but for most families seeing their child slowly wither away, and having a doctor tell them they’re out of options, when there is a treatment option that clearly works is neglectful. I don’t have children of my own nor do I have siblings, but I would much rather see the person I love have a safe and effective treatment option, rather than one that was actually harming their body in the long run. What most people don’t realize is that because the Stanley brothers are treating the kids with lab tested high CBD strains they are not only treating their epilepsy but also protecting their newly developing mind from further damage. This is because Cannabidiol has the highest anti-inflammatory and neuro-protectant properties found in nature, which react with receptors in the brain and help to protect against, and decrease seizure activity all together, while also repairing brain function that may have been previously damaged due to seizure activity. With so many more families willing to turn to anything to help their child, seemingly almost all are landing on cannabis as their treatment of choice and I don’t blame them! With the remarkable results being shown treating pediatric epilepsy it is becoming increasingly hard to ignore, even for those who still would like to, that cannabis is a safe, effective, and even better treatment option than most, if not all of the recommended treatments available. ~

 


The Texas Exodus

WILL TEXAS LEGISLATORS FIND THE COURAGE AND COMPASSION TO END THE TEXAS EXODUS?

Texas families are being forced to uproot their lives and leave most to all of their family and friends behind in order to legally obtain cannabis based medications for their chronically ill children and we need to start asking our state representatives and senators why? Ask them why they forced David, Hannah, Jilli and Shania's parents to move out of the Lone Star State to seek safer and potentially effective medicines for their babies? Ask them how many more families will be forced to make the same decision to leave their families and support networks behind and become Medical Refugees in Colorado and/or other legal states? Ask them why is removing part of a child's brain preferable in their minds than treatment with a God given herb? Ask them why they continue to ignore scientific evidence of the medicinal properties cannabis offers without so many of the potentially life-threatening side effects that FDA approved medications that are prescribed to children every single day?

Ask them if they will find the courage and compassion to let 5 year old David come home and be reunited with his family and friends in Texas? David was diagnosed with Leukemia and suffered a stroke post chemotherapy stroke. He was also diagnosed with epilepsy when he was 2 years old. David's Mom and Grandmother moved to Colorado with David in late 2013 to obtain Cannabis Oil to treat David's seizures after pharmaceuticals and an inplanted Vagus Nerve Stimulator made his seizures worse and 5 neurologists couldn't offer anything that helped. 28 days after beginning a high CBD/THCA oil, David's seizures went from 45+ to 3 and by day 35, he experienced days with ZERO seizures!! David's Daddy has not been able to move to Colorado with his wife and baby boy as his job and their family home are both still in Texas and his parents aren't ready to give up the home they worked so hard to own. David wants to ask Texas Legislators, "Why do I have to be so far away from my Daddy and the rest of my family and friends? Why can't I have my medicine while at home in Texas? Before it, I could barely walk, eat, and didn't speak. Life was extremely difficult for me, everyday full of challenges. Falling suddenly hurting myself . Now, I feel AWESOME!! I am playing, laughing, being myself. I don't fall, my balance is great. When can I come home?"

Hannah and her family just moved from Texas to Colorado on March 11th to have legal access to Cannabis medicines to treat 4 year old Hannah's Dravet Syndrome which has caused her to have  50-100 seizures per day. More and more frequently, Hannah's seizures now cause her to stop breathing. Hannah's parents made the decision to move out of the Lone Star State after trying 12 prescription medications that have not helped reduce Hannah's seizures. On March 13th, Hannah had her Red Card doctor's appointment. On March 18th, Hannah had a seizure that lasted about 50 minutes. She again quit breathing. The paramedics who answered the 911 call had to drill into her shin bone to place an IV called an IO while she was seizing in her new Colorado living room. She had to have a breathing tube put in and was transferred to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at the hospital till she was breathing on her own and able to go to her new home again. Her doctors in Texas had nothing left to offer to try to help Hannah and were not allowed by laws, mandated by lawyers not fellow physicians, to even speak about the medical benefits of cannabis. In Colorado, even as seizures rack havoc on their baby's body, the Loew's now have hope as their daughter will be starting on a high CBD oil within the next week. Ask your legislators what qualifies them to make medical decisions for children like David, Hannah, Jilli, and Shania. 

Jilli and Shania's parents are getting ready to move their families from Texas to Colorado. 8 year old Jillian Faith, aka, Jilli began having seizures shortly after she was born and by the time she was a month old, she was having 40-50 seizures per day from which, prescription anticonvulsants have never brought her any relief. It wasn't until she was 6 months old that doctors were able to give her parents a diagnosis of Spastic Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy.

As she has grown, the Cerebral Palsy has begun to take its toll on her little body. She suffers from spasticity in her muscles, which causes her great discomfort. She has to wear leg braces to keep her feet from turning in, and a wrist brace to hold her hand in the correct position. There are nights that she is in so much discomfort that she stays awake all night from her pain and all her Mommy can do is hold her. So like David, Jilli's Mom Becca will be moving to Colorado with Jilli and her siblings, Emma and Sam, to live there in their camper, while having to leave her husband behind here in Texas so she can do more than just try to comfort her daughter. Jilli is currently on the waiting list for high CBD-low THC oil named Charlotte's Web and should be able to begin taking it shortly after they get their camper parked in Colorado. 

Shania Williams is a beautiful 3 year old Texas girl who suffers from 6q27 Chromosomal Deletion which causes her to suffer from intractable epilepsy and hydrocephalus which in turn along with the medications she has to take have caused other neurological problems and developmental delays. Her parents have made the decision to move to Colorado to be able to treat Shania with Medical Cannabis. Luckily for the Williams, Shania's Daddy, Shannon, is able to transfer to CO with his employer so the immediate family will not be separated but they will have to leave grandparents and extended family behind.

Even though Shania has received some of the best medical care available in Texas, the doctors here have exhausted all treatments other than continuing to increase the dosages of the already dangerous and potential fatal medications she is taking or remove part of her brain which would leave her blind and would possibly only lessen, not cure her seizures. Shania's parents are hoping that with high CBD cannabis medications, they can avoid surgery and decrease the amount of potential life threatening synthetic prescription medications that Shania requires at this time. Be sure and ask your legislators for Shania why they are more comfortable with Texas doctors removing part of a child's brain than they are with allowing those same doctors to discuss and prescribe a plant based medication that is much less toxic than any prescription medication the FDA has approved for seizures.

I am sure there are more Texas families already in Colorado treating their children with Cannabis medicines and am absolutely positive that there are many, many more making plans to uproot their lives, becoming Medical Refugees and part of the Texas Exodus. It is time to start asking WHY until Texas Legislators dig deep and find the courage and compassion that the recent surveys and polls prove their constituents have when it comes to allowing Medical Cannabis here in the Lone Star State. ~

 


MED VS REC CANNABIS

 THE DIFFERENCES IN MEDICAL AND RECREATIONAL CANNABIS FROM AN ADVOCATE'S PERSPECTIVE!

by Tracy Ansley, Outreach Coordinator for the Texas Coalition for Compassionate Care and Veteran Outreach Contact for the newly formed International Women's Cannabis Coalition

While advocating for medical cannabis, I have often been asked, "Is there really any difference between medical cannabis and recreational cannabis?" The answer in my professional and personal experience is, Yes, there are several big differences. While it is true that almost every strain of cannabis and type of delivery/ingestion can and is used by both those in both communities, I believe Brandon Krensler, Dad of young cancer patient, Brave Mykala, expressed the difference between the two uses best in one of his CannaDad blog entries. "Medical Cannabis is used to treat a physiological or psychological condition. Recreational Cannabis is used to relax or create euphoria. Each reason for use is a valid reason". I completely agree with Brandon's statement and believe that cannabis should be available at grocery stores, in the produce section just like any other herb or vegetable but I am realistic and know there is much education and law reform that will need to happen before that day comes, so I decided to act and become an advocate for those cannabis consumers who though often have the desire are unable to advocate for themselves.

Because of my activism and advocacy, I have learned for myself that the majority of people using this plant for its medical purpose are generally not seeking the drug's psychoactive effects of euphoria, or only do so occasionally. People using it for a medical purpose are trying to modify particular symptoms and generally contrary to what most people assume, often use cannabis and its products that is milder than recreational users. In contrast, recreational users partake of the plant to achieve an altered state of consciousness and perception, and generally use cannabis (or concentrates) that, surprisingly is often stronger and more potent than what is preferred by medical patients.

I have met people in states where medical cannabis is legal as well as from those where it is still illegal,  who only ingest cannabis orally by consuming preparations such as infused oils, tinctures, capsules filled with ground plant matter and/or infused oils, as well as in foods such as candies and/or baked goods made with cannabis infused ingredients. I have even met a few people who eat their medicine raw straight from the plant, most often leaves put into salads and via juicing but I have also come across some who swear by eating the buds as fresh as possible. While it is possible to obtain psychoactive effects from these types of intake, excluding consuming it raw, from my observations, most medical patients consume them in smaller amounts than recreational users do purposely to avoid "getting a buzz or high" thus limiting the psychoactive potential of these delivery methods.

I have also gotten to know people who only use topical cannabis preparations and do not use it in any other form. Topical salves that contain cannabis, as well as, straight or diluted highly concentrated Cannabis Oils/Resins, such as Pheonix Tears have been found by these patients to provide safe, effective relief from arthritis and other inflammatory type pain and aches, muscle spasms, skin conditions such as psoriasis and other similar skin conditions, burns, skin ulcers, and even cancerous lesions.

Smoking and Vaporization is still the most common delivery method of adult patients in states such as Texas where all forms of cannabis are still illegal. Many Texans would prefer to use oral and topical delivery methods but because any form and amount of cannabis extract or concentrate is a felony in the Lone Star State, most aren't willing to risk facing felony charges and thus are condemned by our Legislators and Legal System to use what most medical professionals who have experience with medical cannabis states are the least effective delivery methods. Most patients who are fortunate enough to live in states that have passed Compassionate Medical Cannabis Legislation have the opportunity to use a variety of delivery methods.

Medical users are often more concerned with what chemicals have or haven't been used as fertilizers and pesticides on the plants they will eventually consume than recreational users seem to be, but this is not always the case. I have met many recreational users who are just as concerned with what goes on the plants they consume, even though such chemical exposures may not have the dire medical ramifications that it does for people who already have suppressed or compromised immune systems.  Medical dispensaries in legal states usually have the cannabis they sell tested not only for cannabinoid levels but also for chemical exposure, insects, and other contaminates such as mold, mildew, and fungus all of which can cause problems in those with compromised immune systems. These results are made readily available to patients. 

I have met parents living in legal states and some who don't that are successfully treating their children with medical cannabis and I am meeting more and more parents in Texas who are desperate to have the option of trying medical cannabis preparations made from strains, such as, Charlotte's Web for their children who suffer from seizure disorders, Autism, Cancers, Muscular Dystrophy, Cerebral Palsy and many other childhood illnesses and diseases. They are frustrated that they are encouraged to give their often very young children high, toxic, often possibly fatal doses of synthetic prescription medications without fear of facing losing their child(ren) to CPS and arrest. Yet that is exactly what they face if the metabolites of a virtually non-toxic plant are discovered in their child's blood or urine, even when prescription medications have failed them.  

The absolute largest difference I have found between medical cannabis and recreational cannabis so far..... NOT ONE parent that I have met has asked me how they can work to change laws in their state so that their minor children can have access to Recreational Cannabis. ~

 


 

 


Are You Compassionate

ARE YOU COMPASSIONATE?


Have you ever thought about what it's like to be disabled? It's OK if your answer is, "No." Many of us who are disabled never thought about it either, until it affected us, a friend or a family member. I implore you to consider how important it is to empower the disabled and handicapped and think about how you might be able to help someone. The needs are innumerable. These are some of the things we want to bring to light with The Austin420 and through a new organization for patients called P.A.C.T. (Patients Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics.) P.A.C.T. is a place for patients and caregivers to speak openly and freely, in a safe environment. The meetings will be in handicap friendly places at times that are convenient to patients. It is a platform for patients to talk about their needs and what does and doesn't work for them, as well as a place for caregivers to get information.

There are so many patients suffering who feel unheard in the "cannabis community" due to inaccessibility to meetings and a lack of knowledge about patients' needs. P.A.C.T. will concentrate on everyday needs of patients. These needs can vary widely. They can be as simple as meeting a patient or riding with them to go somewhere for moral support if a person has severe anxiety, PTSD, or agoraphobia or as tough as helping someone go to the bathroom or bathe, and everything in between. Some patients need drivers, or their food cut up for them, or to be turned at night to prevent bed sores. Some need advocates to help them stand up for their rights or help them apply for disability benefits. A patient may need help grocery shopping or getting money out of their wallet to pay for things. Did you know there are patients that can't medicate by themselves? Just think about that for a minute and how many of us take that for granted. Many patients are interested in learning about different strains of Medical Marijuana and different ways it can be ingested, from tinctures to the best ways to cook with Cannabis, to vaporizing, using creams, or the most effective ways to smoke Cannabis. More than anything, though, I think patients need to have meaningful interaction with others. That could be a visit, social media, a phone call, or just getting them out of the house.

If we are going to change the laws in Texas and have Medical Marijuana so that patients don't have to live in fear, then we need our legislators to hear from patients. A patient may or may not be able to get to the Capital to testify on bills pertaining to legalization of Medical Cannabis. One way to help is to provide a ride, and be that patient's assistant for the day with whatever their particular needs are. There are patients out there, who simply cannot make it for a myriad of reasons, but they do accept written and video testimony at the Capital. I couldn't go last time, but someone was kind enough to deliver my video testimony to legislators for me. Some patients may need help preparing to testify, whether it be in person, in writing, or on video. If you are willing to help, please come to a P.A.C.T. empowerment meeting and meet some patients; we'll be having our first one in December. The date, time, and place will be announced soon. You can also go to the P.A.C.T. Facebook group page and interact with other caregivers, patients, and other people looking to help. You don't have to be in a wheelchair to be a patient, although many are. Some disabilities are invisible to others.  We all need to meet and see how we can help each other become empowered and learn about what works for different patients. We are all bound to learn from each other. I can't wait to meet you all in person. ~