PHOENIX (CN) - Parents of a 5-year-old boy with severe seizures who made "striking developmental progress" with medical marijuana sued Arizona to head off feared criminal prosecution for using marijuana extracts.
Jacob and Jennifer Welton sued Gov. Jan Brewer, Maricopa County Attorney William Montgomery and the state Department of Health Services, in Maricopa County Court.
The Weltons' son Zander suffers from focal cortical dysplasia, a congenital condition that caused suffer epilepsy and autism, the family says in the lawsuit.
Since he began taking extracts of marijuana two months ago, Zander's seizures have "all but stopped, and for the first time he can walk backwards, is nearly able to run, and can stack more than two blocks at a time," the complaint states.
The parents say Zander is now "actively trying to play with his brothers, and recognizing his parents' laughter and responding with his own."
The Weltons say that in August they learned about Charlotte Figi, another child suffering from epilepsy, from "Weed," a CNN documentary. Figi had 300 seizures per week until her parents treated her with medical marijuana, dropping that number to two or three times per month.
The Arizona Department of Health Services approved the Weltons' application for Zander's medical marijuana card that month. They began to treat their son with a hemp extract when they were unable to find a sustainable supply of marijuana high in cannabidiol (CBD) and low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
According to the complaint, "CBD is one of approximately 85 cannabinoids in the marijuana plant and it has been shown to reduce seizure activity. ... Adding some THC to CBD can enhance the anti-seizure effects of the CBD. THC is the principal
psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana. The ideal ratio of CBD to THC for Zander's
condition is between 20:1 and 25:1."
The Weltons say their son's progress is attributable to the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA), a voter-approved initiative that allows qualifying patients to use medical marijuana.
But comments from state agencies that "the AMMA does not allow patients to use marijuana-derived products, including extracts," make the Weltons fear they will be criminally prosecuted. They say they have stopped giving Zander the extract and instead give him raw plant material, which is hard for him to consume with his medical condition.
The family claims the AMMA "plainly states that patients can use 'any mixture of preparation' made from the dried flowers of the marijuana plant by 'consum[ing] [them] as food or drink.'"
There is no language in the Act limiting medical marijuana use to raw plant material, the Weltons say.
They claim that Phoenix Police Lt. Aaron J. Thomas responded to their email inquiry by writing that defendant prosecutor Montgomery advised police that marijuana extracts "are considered a narcotic drug and they will prosecute as such."
Defendant Arizona Department of Health Services Director Will Humble published a statement in August stating that "registered identification card holders and dispensaries may be exposed to criminal prosecution under the Criminal Code for possessing a narcotic drug if the card holder or dispensary possesses resin extracted from any part of a plant of the genus Cannabis or an edible containing resin extracted from any part of a plant of the genus Cannabis."
"Zander's parents have been forced to put their son's medical progress at risk, all because County Attorney Montgomery is prioritizing his ideological opposition to the voter-approved Arizona Medical Marijuana Act over patients' needs," the Weltons' attorney Emma Andersson said in a statement.
"No parent should have to factor in jail time when deciding to use the most effective medicine to protect their child's health," said Andersson, with the state branch of the ACLU.
The Weltons seek a declaration that the AMMA's decriminalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes includes products derived from marijuana, and an injunction to stop governmental agencies from prosecuting them for treating their son with marijuana extracts.