Austin moms ask lawmakers to keep medical marijuana bills alive

(AP Photo/Ed Andrieski, File)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A group of Austin mothers lobbied at the state Capitol on Thursday to have their voices heard. They want lawmakers to know medical marijuana may be the last hope for their chronically ill children.

One of those moms is AmyLou Faywell, who always had big dreams for her son Jack.

“He was 2-years-old, he was very lethargic,” said Faywell. “Very out of it.”

That year Jack was diagnosed with autism at the Yale Child Study Center. He’s on the severe end of the spectrum. Now 15 years old, Faywell says she thinks about the kid he could have been.

Jack has self-injurious behavior and his hands are covered with scars and calluses from where he has bitten himself. Faywell says he usually does this out of frustration or when he is trying to control himself from lunging or attacking another person.

“At this point we’re not willing try any more heavy-duty meds,” said Faywell. “We’ve tried a few of them, and I call it the reverse curse. Whatever a medication is supposed to do, it generally does the opposite. If it’s supposed to calm him, it generally ramps him up.”

Faywell began researching medical marijuana as a possible treatment and says she has read about successful cases.

“The tangible effects I’m looking for if I were to try medical marijuana for my son is he would stop biting his hands, and stop being an aggressive kid that other children aren’t allowed to be around,” said Faywell. “That he could live in a group home where everybody would feel safe.”

She started the group MAMA, Mother’s Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism.

“There’s 23 states that allow for medical marijuana. Of them, none allow autism as qualifying condition,” said Faywell. “One goal is to get autism as a qualifying condition.”

Alongside Faywell at the Capitol on Thursday were other advocates for medical marijuana, including Karen Whitty, whose son suffers from epilepsy.

“What parent wouldn’t lay their life on the line for their child’s health? For us, this is a life or death situation,” said Whitty. “Of course I would move, but I don’t want to move. He’s a fifth generation Texan, this is our home state. This is where we want to be and where we want to stay.”

While surgery has helped with her son’s seizures, she believes cannabis is the answer.

“There are people and mothers in the state of Texas committing felonies right now, treating their children,” says Faywell. “And they’re being successful.”

These mothers say they want to give their kids the same chance. But while Faywell wants to see medical marijuana used to treat autism, more research is needed. A behavioral therapist tells KXAN she has never heard of anyone trying it. And some research raises questions about how the drug could affect the developing brain.

Many at the Capitol doubt lawmakers will pass any marijuana legislation this session, medical or otherwise, because none have gotten past a committee vote. Only one major bill, which would lessen the penalties for possessing a small amount of the drug, has had a public hearing. It is pending in that committee.

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