Cannabis edibles as breakthrough autism treatment? Mieko Hester-Perez tells Joey's story
Talk about timing. The day after a hearing about a proposed medical marijuana edibles industry ban that was modified to target allegedly misleading MMJ labels (featuring a probably mythical product called Cap'n Chronic), Casselman's will host an "awareness mixer" for the Unconventional Foundation for Autism, which touts the use of cannabis for this terrible malady. How so? Let Mieko Hester-Perez, this evening's main attraction, share the story of her son Joey.
More pics below.
"Joey is twelve-years old," says the California-based Hester-Perez; he celebrated his birthday on March 1. "He was diagnosed with autism at sixteen months, and by the time he was ten, the medications associated with autism had pretty much written him a death sentence. He was down to 46 pounds."
Desperately searching for some way to help her son, Hester-Perez began surfing the Internet in search of alternative treatments -- and she came across information from the likes of Harvard's Dr. Lester Grinspoon and Colorado Springs' Dr. Robert Melamede suggesting that cannabis edibles held promise. At first, she was resistant to the idea. "I am not a cannabis user," she points out. "But I was raised pro-life. I wanted to do whatever I could to save my son's life."
Hester-Perez and Joey.
So, after getting a doctor's recommendation, she began baking medical marijuana into brownies -- and Joey began to improve in very short order. "Within a couple of months, he had gained over fifteen pounds, and he started growing," she points out. "He had been missing nutrients for the last seven or eight years. And by six months, he was keeping eye contact with people.
"He also used to horde, and he was no longer hording, and he would hurt himself and others -- and because I have a two-year-old, I didn't know if I'd have to put Joey into some kind of a home. But he stopped doing that, too. All of the symptoms that we'd been seeing we started scratching off the list. And he doesn't even get an edible every day. He may get one every three to four days, whereas he was taking other medications every day -- and they were killing him. He was well on his way to death."
As Hester-Perez notes, "I'm not a doctor, I'm not a scientist. I'm a legal researcher -- I have been one for the past fifteen years, and I had no idea that my son was going to be my biggest project." But after presenting the results to Joey's physician, Dr. Rebecca Hedrick, she decided to share her experiences with a wider audience, via an appearance on Good Morning America.
Hester-Perez posing with Robin Roberts and Diane Sawyer following her GMA appearance.
Immediately thereafter, Hester-Perez says she was inundated with phone calls and e-mails from parents of autistic children wanting to know more about Joey's case -- so many, in fact, that she decided to found the Unconventional Foundation for Autism. "When I was going through this, I didn't have anywhere to turn," she says, "and I was affected by the stigma. I didn't want anyone to know what I was doing, and I tried to do everything as discretely as possible. But once I was on Good Morning America, all that flew out the window."
Indeed, Hester-Perez has become a sought-after speaker at medical marijuana-oriented events, and she was overwhelmed by the response she received during her appearance at December's KushCon II in Denver. "I had women, men, families crying," she recalls. "Someone told me I needed to wear a shirt that said, 'I make men cry.' Here were these growers, strong men, crying as they told me I was giving them a purpose."
Hence, her decision to return to Colorado for tonight's event. Among the topics she'll discuss is an ongoing case study that Dr. Hedrick plans to present to the University of California-Irvine in the near future. Hester-Perez hopes the information they're collecting will establish in clinical detail the ways in which medical marijuana can help kids like Joey: "Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but we want to be able to say, 'These are the facts. These children have a better quality of life.'
"I've never stated that this is a cure," she continues. "There will never be a cure for autism. Every child has a different DNA makeup, and what happens with my child may be different from what happens for another child. But I do believe children who are severely autistic -- who are higher on the autism spectrum -- will benefit from cannabis. We just did a presentation to fifty conservative doctors, and afterward, they looked at me and said, 'You're right.'"
Hester-Perez at KushCon II.
Of course, Hester-Perez is hoping attendees at Casselman's will donate to the cause. But she says, "The number one goal is to bring awareness to our foundation. I'm here to create a dialogue, as well as to encourage everyone to move forward with cannabis research."
She'd also like to counter any efforts to ban cannabis edibles -- because without them, she firmly believes Joey would no longer be with us.
Page down to get more information about the event, as well as to see Hester-Perez's appearance on Good Morning America.