Hard working mother of 3, Medicinal Mama is the co-owner of the Autism & Compassionate Care Connection in California - a medical cannabis collective founded by parents of individuals with autism. While she had been a consumer of cannabis since she was 17, she never considered working with cannabis. However, when her son was diagnosed with autism, things changed dramatically. Tired and totally burned out, she was exhausted. Searching for a natural alternative to pharmaceuticals for her son Medicinal Mama turned to cannabis. The results blew her away. For the first time in his life, her son was at peace. Today, this busy mom of 3 is passionate about sharing how cannabis can help children with autism. Working to found ACCC her mission is to help individuals with autism increase their self-awareness and quality of life through a scientific approach of cultivating high-quality strains of medical cannabis strategically targeted at alleviating their specific symptoms, through seamless administration methods of ingestion and inhalation.
In the beginning, what inspired you to get involved with cannabis?
I’ve been using cannabis since I was 17. I struggled with anxiety and depression. Cannabis helped me immensely. Later, my son was diagnosed with autism. Things really started progressing with his condition as he got older. Behaviors started turning more aggressive and unmanageable. That is when I really started looking into cannabis for autism. Then, one day my son accidentally cut his foot open with an electric saw. It was horrific. My son almost lost his toes from it. It was a crazy situation.
I took him to the doctor and they wanted to prescribe him all these heavy pain pills like Vicodin. I wasn't going to do that. So I went and got my son a liquid cannabis concentrate. I was hesitant at first because of the taboo. Consuming cannabis yourself is of course very different than giving it to your child. However, my son has a real medical need. At a certain point as a parent, you have to get over that fear. When I gave my son the concentrate, I immediately noticed a difference. It was honestly amazing. For the first time, my son was happy and pain-free. From then on I started incorporating cannabis into his therapies.
Cannabis has improved my son's life in ways I never imagined were possible. I truly believe cannabis is helping heal my son’s brain in a deep and profound way. I wish that I could get a doctor to do research with him. I wish it so much. Cannabis has improved his language and the ability to express his feelings. Even when it comes to the little things, cannabis is changing his life. The other day we were driving through the mountains. My son turns to me and says, “Wow! Mommy – these mountains are so beautiful!” Every day is a miracle. Children with autism so often struggle to express themselves. This is difficult not only for caregivers but also the child. Cannabis is helping my son express himself. I am thankful for that every day.
When first using cannabis for your son with autism, how would you describe his response?
There was definitely an immediate response to cannabis. It was night and day for my son. When my son didn’t have the medicine he needed – he would break windows, run away, and destroy things. Even worse, my son would also experience huge emotional breakdowns. For example, it is very hard for him to transition. Simple things like leaving the home are overwhelming for my son. There was a time when I was not able to access the medicine I needed for him.
This would happen often before I started working with the collective. There would be pockets of time where I was not able to give him the medicine he needed. You could absolutely tell the difference. Everyone around me noticed a substantial difference between my son on cannabis and him without. From teachers to friends to family members, people were shocked by the difference. In fact, they were asking if he could be put back on it. For my son, cannabis is life changing.
I first started off giving him a high CBD. It worked for a while but I felt that there was something that could be even better for him. I then graduated him into a higher THC strain. I actually use Girl Scout Cookie for his therapies. It's been amazing for him. My son also suffers from ADHD in addition to autism. He has trouble sitting still for even a few minutes. Hyperactive is really an understatement with him. Using cannabis has dramatically improved his life. I have gotten reports from school that he was able to finish a task rather than feeling overwhelmed. Even when it comes to doing normal things as a family, cannabis has given us our lives back.
Take going to the movies for example. We have never been able to go to the movies as a family. My son is highly susceptible to sensory overload. That is part of what has made driving or leaving the house so difficult for him. As part of his therapy, I’ve been trying to gradually introduce him to new environments and sounds. While I do not want to overwhelm him, it’s also important to make sure he is not living in a box. So I decided to medicate my son before going to the movies. He was able to sit throughout the entire movie and enjoy it. That has never happened before. Today we are able to go to the movies as a family for the first time because of cannabis. It may seem like it’s a small thing but it’s those little moments that make the difference.
Have you noticed any specific strains/therapies to be helpful for children with autism?
In a perfect word – yes. In reality? No. I spend a lot of time researching therapies for my clients. I run an organic cannabis collective. Most of my clients who come to me are people who have maxed out all “traditional” pharmaceutical options. In fact, the vast majority of these people would have never turned to cannabis. There are a lot of people who still attach the stigma of weed to medicinal cannabis. Which means that a lot of education has to take place. I also have to figure out what strain or options will work best for them.
To be honest, this is still somewhat of a guessing process. You could give one child a strain which helps them calm down. You could give another child that same strain and have a totally different reaction. Because this type of therapy is relatively unexplored, there is a lot of testing that has to take place.
One thing I have seen across the board though is that autistic children tend to not do well with solely CBD therapies. I’m not sure what it is. My son is fairly functioning and did OK when I gave him CBD. However, I’ve noticed with other children, especially those with a more severe form of autism, do not react well. When given CBD, many of the children become agitated and anxious. Something that also surprised me is that girls are the hardest to figure out medications for. I’m not sure at this point why. We know that women tend to be more complex, so maybe that has something to do with it.
Any advice for mothers who are considering medicinal cannabis for their children?
I highly encourage parents to educate themselves as much as possible. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, especially to other parents. I also encourage people to exhaust all natural options before turning to pharmaceuticals. When you research further, you find that the side-effects of many of these medications are detrimental to a child's health. If you are dealing with a child who has autism, this often means they will have trouble expressing what they need.
In some cases, they may not even be able to talk. They cannot tell you what that medication is making them feel like. So often people end up maxing out on pharmaceuticals before transitioning to something natural like cannabis. This is hard and stressful on families. Not to mention these children end up with even more health issues from taking pharmaceuticals. I try to tell anyone who will listen to me to take the natural road. Take the demonized aspect out of cannabis. Approach this substance as plant just like any other medicinal herb.
What does a day in the life of Medicinal Mama consist of?
Well, my days are pretty crazy! In the morning I wake up and help the kids get ready. This includes making breakfast, lunch, and getting them on the bus. Then, I take some time to handle the business side of the collective. Often I will be making any necessary updates, meeting with parents, or responding to emails. I’m always looking to better our collective and provide more options and different ways to administer the medicine. For a lot of these children, it is challenging to find a way for them to consume it. Sometimes you really have to get creative.
For example, I had a mom whose son only ate chicken nuggets. It was a severe situation because he had actually lost 25 pounds the previous month. When you’re dealing with children that is a huge amount of weight. So what I did is take a high THC tincture and put it in the chicken nuggets. This way he would actually ingest the medicine. You really have to think outside of the box. This is part of what prompted me to pursue spas for autistic moms.
It is so important for these mothers to learn how to take care of themselves. Life is so intense when you’re dealing with a child who has autism. Often, there is little, if any reprieve. As you can imagine, this can really weigh someone down. If you're feeling weighed down, you cannot be the best mom you can be. I’m only just now learning myself how to take time out of my day for self-care.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
I love the fact that I can make these kids happier. So many children with autism are prisoners within their own bodies. To see a child being happy and know that a parent has peace of mind, that brings me joy. Whether cannabis can make a child’s day just a little bit better or significantly better, that is everything to me. I love being able to improve people’s lives. After seeing what cannabis could do for my son, I had to share that with other people. That is why I do what I do.
Biggest hurdle or challenge you’ve faced?
Because we are dealing with children, people act like I’m providing alcohol rather than cannabis. People really believe I am doing this horrible thing to my child by giving him cannabis. I’ve even had CPS called on me before. Keep in mind we’re dealing with something from nature here. It’s infuriating to me as a mother that I am looked down on because I am choosing to do the right thing for my son. There is a strong stereotype/perception people have when it comes to cannabis.
People automatically assume I am a “stoner mom” who just loves to give her kid weed. That’s obviously not the case. Yet, this will be coming from the same parents who have their children strung out on Adderall. The biggest challenge I have is dealing with people getting over the fact that what I do is for children with a medical need.
What would you say to parents who are interested in learning more about cannabis?
Use social media. There are so many groups online today. Whether you’re looking to connect with people in your area or across the world, it is possible. Learn from what somebody else has already done. There is no need to reinvent the wheel here. Also, don’t be afraid to talk about it.
I frequently talk to people about cannabis when I am out in public. More often than not, these interactions end up being very positive. A lot of people end up expressing an interest in cannabis. I have had some many people step forward and say they are interested in giving cannabis a try because I opened that door for them. Taking the taboo out of cannabis is one the best things we all can do. Treat cannabis like what it is. We know that cannabis is not some scary drug or anything harmful. In fact, cannabis is really one of the most amazing plants on this entire planet. I have yet to find a plant that is capable of what cannabis is.