We never imagined we would say we felt we had no choice but to put our son on medical marijuana, but then again, we never imagined he would suffer from a rare, genetic ailment that causes him to violently harm himself every day.

Jason suffered his first seizure when he was six weeks old.  The seizure was caused by a rare genetic disorder called Tuberous Sclerosis, which impacts about 50,000 people in the U.S. and causes growths in organs.  In the case of our son, the growths developed in his brain, which led to seizures and autism.

The illness caused Jason to start hurting himself at age three.  By age five, he head-butted everything he could and would bruise his forehead to the point at which it would bleed and leave his face black and blue. The sight was nothing short of horrifying.  He would seem normal one minute, then run himself into a wall. We tried everything to try to protect him: We bought a helmet, tried swaddling him like a baby, we even tried giving him mood-altering drugs.

When Jason was eight years old we felt we had no choice but to move him into a state-funded group home.  To his mother and I, we felt like we were giving him away; like we were telling him he can’t be part of the family any more. Since we live in Oregon, we found a doctor who approved Alex for his medical marijuana card.  His autism was not a qualifying factor for medical marijuana, but his seizures were and after a few months of giving him a liquid form of medical marijuana we saw major improvement.  In about 90 minutes, he would go from hitting himself to the point where he would bleed, to sitting quietly and playing with toys.

The group home did not support medical marijuana for kids, so three times a week, we would give it to him.  The American Academy of Pediatrics opposes medical marijuana for kids, saying it can be toxic to developing brains, but here’s the thing: for us, the long-term side effects that are unknown for something that’s not going to kill him are a lot better than the long-term side effects of him beating himself bloody.

For a father, I don’t want to think about what the outcome would have been had we not made the decision to give Jason medical marijuana.  We don’t want to think about it, but we needed another way to treat him. When you’ve got no other options are you honestly going to say no?

Thankfully, it’s working.