Minnesota mom Angela Brown is facing criminal charges after giving her son medical marijuana to treat the traumatic brain injury he sustained when getting hit in the head during a baseball game.
To many, the case symbolizes the backward nature of medical marijuana policy, leaving the health and well-being of families as collateral damage.
"All we ever wanted was the best for our son," David Brown, Angela's husband, told Fusion in a phone interview. "Now we have a legal battle, we can't treat his condition, and we have no real options."
At first, the family realized that prescriptions from Minnesota doctors were doing little to offer relief for 15-year old Trey Brown, who suffers from seizures, headaches and muscle spasms. The discomfort and pain had driven him to begin hurting himself and refusing to go to school.
Photo courtesy of the Brown family
The family decided to go to Colorado to buy cannabis oil, which they heard would treat their son's symptoms. It worked. "[Trey's] seizures and symptoms started to go away, immediately," David said. Feeling better, Trey returned to school, where teachers noted his recovery. When asked what had brought about the positive shift, Angela told teachers the truth: the family was using cannabis oil to treat the symptoms of his condition.
Police arrived at her home about a week later, seizing the oil and charging her with child endangerment and causing a child to need protection.
Since then, Trey's seizures have returned, and his family is again fearful he will hurt himself. Over the phone, David sounds distraught over his family's situation, adding that Trey blames himself for his mother's situation, only adding to the stress.
The biggest irony in the Brown's case is that Minnesota has already passed medical marijuana laws, which go into effect July 2015.
But according to David, even this seemingly progressive law is a perversion that places the medical needs of families after politics. "The law they passed is a pacifier placed in the mouths of people to shut them up about medical marijuana," he said. Under the law, passed earlier this year, the state will only have two official marijuana growers. Twelve firms applied for the positions, each paying a non-refundable $20,000 application fee.
The products will only be available in eight locations (yet to be determined) throughout the state, and the state Legislature limited the conditions that are eligible to receive the drug, including patients with chronic pain.
"If the law goes into effect in July, they should have gotten started growing a month ago to meet that deadline," David said. By all accounts, the overall process has been stalled.
Photo courtesy of the Brown family
David blames Lac qui Parle county attorney Richard Stulz for his family's situation. He says Stultz has failed to even show up in court or respond to any pleas to drop the charges, instead sending an assistant to do the job. He also faults Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, who David describes as "chickenshit" and a coward, for not returning any calls or messages. On the other hand, Hannah Nicollette, an independent candidate for Minnesota governor, helped spur the #HandsOffAngela campaign in support of dropping all charges.
The Brown family has set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for legal fees as they fight the case. Angela's next court date is currently set for December 17, a date when the family hopes that all charges will be dropped.
There is one thing, however, that is crystal clear for the Browns.
"After the legal things are settled, whichever way they go, there is no doubt that we will be leaving this state," David said.
Colorado is the top prospect for that move.
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.