Parents Regain Custody of Child Taken for Using Medical Marijuana

David Ray, a Georgia teen taken by authorities after they discovered that his parents allowed him to smoke marijuana in an attempt to control his seizures, is now back home, two months after the ordeal began. David was taken from his mother and step-father by Twiggs County, an event that landed him in the hospital (after he suffered one of the worst seizures he’d ever had) and his parents in jail.

Despite the fact that cannabis was helping Ray (while smoking it, he hadn’t had a seizure in seventy-one days), Matthew and Suzeanna Brill were charged with reckless conduct.

Now they have him back, but not without state inference. The Division of Family and Children Services created a protective order that returns full custody but mandates the Brills meet with authorities twice a month for the next six months (to start). David will also be drug-tested regularly to make sure he’s not using.

He will, however, be given a prescription for Epidiolex, the recently FDA-approved cannabis oil that is legal to use in Georgia. However, you can’t purchase it in Georgia nor can you transport it across state lines, rendering it impossible to obtain if you’re obeying the rules. 

This gives the Brills two choices in obtaining the medication: break the law or relocate.

How Things Unfolded

The Brills had been candid about David’s marijuana use with his doctors without complaint. But, in mid-April, hours after revealing this use to his therapist, the police showed up at their front door. 

All three – Matthew, Suzeanna, and David – were drug-tested; Matthew and David’s tests came back positive while Suzeanna tested negative. The Brills told the police they’d allowed their son to smoke weed in an effort to control his seizures. The police demanded they stop and the Brills complied.

Fourteen hours later, David was rushed to the hospital because he was seizing so severely.

He remained hospitalized for a week. Upon release, he was taken to a group home where he was separated from his seizure dog (a service dog specially trained in alerting his master of an impending seizure) and only allowed to speak to his parents via telephone or through short visits. And his seizures returned.

His parents spent nearly a week in jail.

Police badge at nightDespite all this, the Brills have no regrets about giving their son access to pot. Suzeanna told the New York Times, “Had it not been for me and my husband, my son would have been long dead. Authorities want to argue legality instead of taking care of the kid.”

Matthew added, “Even with the ramifications with the law, I don’t care. For seventy-one days he was able to ride a bike, go play, lift weights. We were able to achieve that when David medicated not from Big Pharma, but David medicated with marijuana.”

Of course, that’s what escapes many of us when it comes to seizure disorder: it’s not only the actual seizures that reduce quality of life; it’s also the never-ending threat of a seizure. For youth prone to seizures, they’re not allowed to be kids.

The Briggs tried legal pharmaceuticals to no avail (and to the demise of David’s health). So, in February, they let him smoke. That’s when the seizures stopped.

Desperate Times

It’s hard to imagine a parent who can blame the Briggs for letting their son smoke; desperate times call for desperate measures and pot worked when everything else failed.

On the Go Fund Me page set up for David, this raw desperation is obvious with his mother stating: “The Doctors tried him on many medications (some all at once) to try and stop the seizures as he was having them daily. These medications almost cost him his life just because of their chemical nature. We trusted these doctors that their medical expertise with these medications were in David’s best interest, past my own knowledge, my husband researched them and wow the side effects, and then watched these dangerous chemicals that are prescribed in good faith have a different chemical reaction in our son that could not have been foreseen, the seizures got worse, our son has fought many times for his life with doctors fighting to bring him back and keep him here. David has a service dog, seizures, seizure medications, and doctors. What he doesn’t have is the ability to be a child because the seizures have stolen his childhood from him.”

Marijuana in Georgia

Atlanta, GeorgiaGeorgia is not an open-minded mecca for the cannabis industry, unfriendly to Mary Jane in all corners of the state. It is probably inevitable that most of the US legalizes medicinally and recreationally. But Georgia? They could very well hold out and stand their dry ground.

Presently, possession of marijuana remains criminal (though possession of less than an ounce is a misdemeanor). Medicinally, their program leaves a lot to be desired. Eligible patients can possess up to 20 ounces of cannabis oil as long as it’s low THC, high CBD. But, as mentioned above, you can’t buy this inside the state. So no one is sure how to obtain it legally.

Possession of the whole plant is not legal. Cultivation isn’t either.

Cannabis and Seizures

Of all health conditions, epilepsy and related maladies are most closely tied to marijuana; it’s a partnership that has gotten a lot of press. Research as well as anecdotal evidence has found that marijuana is indeed beneficial to those with seizure disorders, especially hard-to-treat disorders that are unresponsive to more standard types of medicine.

Parents have uprooted their lives in an attempt to access cannabis for their seizure-afflicted children. They’ve stormed City Hall, they’ve written about the success they’ve seen in front of their very eyes, they’ve relocated to states that would allow their children to use medicinal pot.

Still, certain people remain unmoved, claiming that cannabis might help some with seizures, but it won’t help everyone. If that’s their reason for keeping it illicit, then they may as well make every medication in the world illegal too. Nothing helps everyone, not even when it’s approved by the big pharmaceutical companies. Not even when you can buy it over the counter. Not even when it comes with a side of kale. There is no one-fix-fits-all in the world of wellness.

Parents Regain Custody of Child Taken for Using Medical Marijuana was last modified: by
Jenn Keeler

About the author: Jenn Keeler is a freelance writer and illustrator specializing in humorous lifestyle articles. She is one of the few people on earth actually using an English degree. Her heart belongs to the Denver Broncos and her husband. In that order.