MAMMA 2014

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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. ~