"Today is the best day ever," says 15-year-old Julia Patterson as she and her mother, Linda, sit down with "Snapshot." They'd just come from a hospital visit that yielded a 100% clear electroencephalogram (EEG) test.
Why is that such a big deal? Because Julia, a resident of Round Top who suffers from intractable epilepsy, hasn't had a clear EEG – meaning zero abnormal electrical activity in the brain – since she started suffering from seizures in 2008.
The only difference in her recent treatment: the introduction in early February of CBD oil from South Austin's Compassionate Cultivation. It's one of two open establishments in Texas – where more than 100,000 people are diagnosed with intractable epilepsy – granted licenses just over two months ago to grow and process marijuana specifically for medicinal CBD, which contains minimal THC and so doesn't get patients – about 60% of whom are minors – high in the slightest.
Julia isn't the only patient experiencing positive results. Over the weekend, "Snapshot" met with several others, alongside their parents, and asked: Since starting CBD treatment, what improvements do you see? What doors could open because of this? And what challenges still lie ahead for further acceptance of medicinal marijuana in Texas?
If CBD continues preventing seizures, Julia, a straight-A high school sophomore, says: "I will have a life. I want to be able to drive and be independent and go off for college to a four-year school, and not be academically limited at a two-year school close to home. My hope is that others can benefit from this and that the stigma will eventually be erased by enough advocates like us who go on the record." Regarding the clear EEG, her mother Linda adds: "We've had honeymoon periods with various devices or drugs, but we've never had an absolutely clean and normal 23-hour test."
14-year-old Miles Tolany – Compassionate Cultivation's first patient, pictured receiving CBD via oral syringe from mother Debbie at their West Austin home – is a more extreme case because he also has severe autism (he's completely nonverbal), a rare endocrine disorder, several gastrointestinal diseases, and chronic kidney disease, which means his body can't handle heavy drugs, so positive results from CBD are even more impactful: "When you're in that much pain ... and you have no way to communicate that, it culminates as an aggression," says Debbie, a member of Texas-based MAMMA (Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism). "I have scars up and down my arms from Miles scratching me and hurting me ... and I haven't bled in months. That's a crazy thing to say, but that's a really big thing."
"By and large, the majority of our patients – out of 100-plus patients, mostly children – are finding success," says Compassionate Cultivation CEO Morris Denton. "There's a purpose behind what we do. At the end of every day, it has led to a direct, positive result in somebody's life. There is evidence, science, proof that this plant has huge potential for wellness."
Garret Nicodemus, in charge of extracting and testing at Compassionate Cultivation, offers perspective on his motivation for working in the industry while synthesizing CBD oil in the lab: "Obviously, it's not the cure-all for everybody, but to see some patients having significant improvement in their lives shows us that we're on the right track," he says. "We want to bring meaning to the word 'medical,' because in Colorado and other places it was kind of a joke from a scientific, consistency and quality perspective. I want to develop products that would be something I'd be proud of to give my grandma or my mom."
For 20-year-old Zachary Pinkerton of Dripping Springs (Texas' first adult legal CBD patient), seen here receiving medicine alongside mother Mary Beth at Compassionate Cultivation, just over two months of treatment has proven monumental. He's more physically active now than for most of the past decade, and has been able to reduce intake of two staple epilepsy pharmaceuticals by 40% and 60%: "His last seizure was April 1, and we haven't gone 12 days without a seizure in years," says Mary Beth. Since his first CBD dose on Feb. 8, Zach is less susceptible to heat (a major seizure trigger) and can once again work out and play basketball – his favorite sport – several days a week.
Debbie Tolany shares a tender moment with son Miles, who suffers from the most severe form of epileptic seizures, grand mal, which last minutes and cause him to turn blue, aspirate, and trigger sleep periods of up to 18 hours afterward. Before CBD treatment, these occurred about twice per week; they've only seen two in the past month, and his teacher at Rosedale School reported negative and aggressive behaviors down by two-thirds: "Just this last weekend at the Rosedale School Ride, which is their biggest fundraiser, I brought Miles for the first time and ... he lasted for two hours – I haven't done that with Miles in years," says Debbie, who adds that her family of four (they have a typically developing 11-year-old boy as well) doesn't do anything together outside of the house. "I think it really comes to just trying to understand where us parents are coming from. Walk a mile in our shoes. Feel the desperation that we feel to have safe medicines for our children – kids with the level of need that Miles has need more access to THC and other cannabinoids."