Arizona parents sue state to treat son, 5, with marijuana extracts


TUCSON -- The parents of a 5-year-old Arizona boy are suing the state, seeking to treat their son’s seizure disorder with marijuana extracts under the state’s medical marijuana law.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the suit on behalf of Jennifer and Jacob Welton, parents of young Zander. The Weltons, of Mesa, want to force the state to include marijuana extracts, such as oil resins, as legal substances under a law approved three years ago by voters.

The boy’s severe epilepsy is one symptom of a rare, congenital condition. This year, Arizona Department of Health Services officials approved a medical marijuana application for Zander, issuing the child a medical marijuana patient identification card.


However, some state officials have suggested that only the marijuana plant — not its extract — is legal for medicinal purposes, ACLU officials said.

Fearing criminal prosecution, the couple stopped giving Zander the extract even though it had successfully treated his disorder, the complaint stated.

State officials targeted in the lawsuit, including Gov. Jan Brewer and the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, declined to comment.

“When Arizona’s voters said ‘yes’ to legalizing medical marijuana for seriously ill patients in 2010, they certainly meant the plant as well as extracts from the plant,” ACLU attorney Emma Andersson said in a statement. “Casting a cloud of criminality over medical marijuana extracts is wrong and cruel.”

Zander has undergone two unsuccessful brain surgeries, his parents stated in the lawsuit. The only effective treatment is the oil containing the marijuana extract, in combination with the dried marijuana plant, which has reduced Zander’s seizures dramatically, the complaint stated.

The couple have stopped using the oil and increased the amount of dried plant material, hoping to make up for the loss of the chemical CBD from the oil. But the dried plant is difficult for Zander to swallow, the complaint states. In addition, it’s unlikely that Zander is getting enough of the CBD that is needed to successfully treat his seizures, ACLU officials said in a written statement.

Before Zander started the oil and plant regimen this year, he had the motor skills of about a 1-year-old, because the seizures had stunted his physical abilities. After a short period on the treatment, Zander’s parents saw his motor skills and coordination improve, the complaint stated.

The boy can now stack two blocks at a time, use eating utensils and walk around without touching the wall or other objects for stability, according to the lawsuit.

Dan Pochoda, legal director of the ACLU of Arizona, stated that Brewer and Maricopa County Atty. William Montgomery have put the boy’s health in jeopardy.

“Zander Welton and his medical progress are now endangered by their political agenda,”
he said in a statement. “It’s time for our state to acknowledge the clear statement made by the voters about the legality of medical marijuana extracts.”


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