POSTED: Saturday, July 16, 2011 - 12:45pm
UPDATED: Saturday, July 16, 2011 - 1:52pm
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.
Meiko says, "It happened to be cannabis for our family."
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. A stark contrast to his current weight of 112 pounds.
Meiko says, "My son was absolutely withering away. You could see the bones in his chest."
Out of desperation, she Googled cannabis and autism. She 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.
Meiko says, "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."
Hester-Perez says 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.
Meiko says, "He was calm, sociable, happy, more productive."
We 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.
Dr. Seth Ammeran of Stanford University says "parents have the best interest of their kids at heart, and they want to do what's best for their kids. But as a medical professional who really needs to look at the science behind recommendations, I can't in good conscious 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.