Plenty of parents give their kids chocolate. But this is not your typical chocolate bar.
Meiko Hester-Perez is giving her severely autistic 12-year-old son, Joey, chocolate laced with medical marijuana.
"It happened to be cannabis for our family," she said.
Hester-Perez didn't make the decision lightly. But this is what Joey looked like two-and-a-half years ago: he weighed just 42 pounds. It's a stark contrast to his current weight of 112 pounds.
"My son was absolutely withering away. You could see the bones in his chest," Hester-Perez said.
Out of desperation, she Googled cannabis and autism, and soon realized she wasn't the only one that made the connection. Other parents and autism experts found success with medical marijuana as a treatment for autistic children. That was all she needed to take the next step to get a medical marijuana card for Joey. The first time she gave him a pot brownie, she said she saw immediate results.
"Everything is improved. Right now he's given one brownie every two to three days. Whereas the other medications he was taking every single day, twice a day," she said.
Hester-Perez said medical marijuana not only gave him a big appetite, which we saw ourselves as he munched almost non-stop on a bag of chips during our interview, it also helped his behavior, she said.
"He was calm, sociable, happy, more productive," Hester-Perez said.
NBC called dozens of pediatricians, psychiatrists and autism experts looking for someone who would be critical of Hester-Perez's decision, but no one wanted to talk on camera. We finally found Dr. Seth Ammeran, a Stanford professor who's also on the American Academy of Pediatrics substance abuse committee. And while he doesn't question parents' motives in using medical marijuana to treat autism, he is concerned.
"Parents have the best interest of their kids at heart, and they want to do what's best for their kids," said Seth Ammeran. "But as a medical professional who really needs to look at the science behind recommendations, I can't in good conscience recommend it."
After all, she has experience. The mother in this story is trying money and awareness for autism and marijuana research through a non-profit called the Unconventional Foundation for Autism.
by Kevin Held
Jul 15, 2011