Shortly after Lelah and Jade Jerger found a treatment that could stop their two year old daughter, Jaelah, from having epileptic seizures, child protective services showed up at their door.
“They were going to take her,” Jade told NBC News.
Why? Because the Jergers were treating Jaelah’s epilepsy with cannabidiol (CBD), an extract from the cannabis/marijuana plant. In many states, products from the cannabis plant can legally be used for a variety of medical purposes; advocates say that in addition to preventing seizures, it can help with conditions like anxiety, schizophrenia, and even cancer. However, in the state of Indiana (where the Jergers reside), it had not yet been approved for children with the type of epilepsy Jaelah has.
NBC News correspondent Rich McHugh noted that, “Authorities seemed to be asking the Jergers to choose between letting their daughter suffer or breaking the law and possibly losing custody.”
Cannabidiol was not the first treatment that the Jergers tried. They first gave Jaelah a drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but found it ineffective. Then they read about how cannabidiol could help prevent seizures, and ordered some from a company called Stanley Brothers in Colorado, where marijuana is legal for both medical and recreational purposes. The Stanley Brothers maintain, however, that cannabidiol is a supplement, not a recreational drug. Unlike other forms of marijuana, its psychotropic effects are pretty much nonexistent. Joel Stanley (one of the owners) told NBC that, “The way my little brother puts it, you could smoke a joint the size of a telephone pole and not get high.”
The fact that cannabidiol can prevent seizures without altering mental state has made it seem like a lifesaver to many parents of children with epilepsy. In some states, however, using it to treat a child is also illegal and could result in a custody battle with child protective services.
Change to Indiana Law
Fortunately for the Jergers, the state of Indiana dropped its charges and changed its legislation to permit cannabidiol to be used as a treatment for Jaelah’s form of epilepsy. They’re now suing child protective services for threatening to remove their daughter from their home.
Many other families across the nation will still have to answer the question posed by McHugh at the start of his article: “What would you do if your child had a serious illness and the only treatment that would stop her pain was illegal?”
NBC News – ‘Helpless’: The only treatment for their baby’s epileptic seizures was illegal