Mothers have long been a driving force behind the push for greater access to cannabinoids and are often medical cannabis movement’s most vocal advocates.
These mothers are telling their stories to the media, lobbying lawmakers, and creating their own support groups online and through social media to spark a wave of change in cannabis policy and raise awareness for the many benefits cannabinoids can offer.
While it is easy for everyone to heap praise on these passionate mothers as heroes, Penny Howard, founder of Hope4Harper placed her own role as a mother and advocate in perspective, saying, “We’re all just parents, searching for a better quality of life for our children.”
Therefore, let us take a moment to honor the hard work and tireless hours mothers like these have dedicated to the cannabis movement this Mother’s Day.
The Howard family is a typical Texas family from outside Dallas, with a daughter who is anything but. After just a few weeks of life, Harper received the diagnosis that would forever change the family’s world.
The mother of a special needs child, it would have been easy for Penny to accept her lot and turn inward, focusing on her own family’s needs… but she never did. From early on, Penny saw their situation as a chance to better the world around them, creating the Hope4Harper nonprofit to raise awareness surrounding the family’s experiences with their daughter.
From the beginning, Penny and the Howards shared Harper’s story online, hoping that sharing their experience would somehow help others. For them, this was the basic form of giving back.
Started in the summer of 2011, the Hope4Harper blog now contains 44 pages of posts, covering everything from the elating to the heartbreaking, during Harper’s nearly six years of life. Most posts are written by Penny and present a way to follow along with Harper and the family’s progress day to day. Along with the Hope4Harper blog, Penny runs a companion Facebook page and group to help similar parents interact with each other and share updates.
Through it all, young Harper was a beacon for hope for everyone whose life she’s crossed, including her own family. Sadly, Harper’s ultimate contribution came upon her tragic passing earlier last year. Since then, her donation to medical research has allowed scientists to pursue a greater understanding of neurological diseases.
Immediately following Harper’s death, the Howards acted to donate Harper’s brain and tissue to the Muotri Lab at the University of California, San Diego. This decision, considered in advance of Harper’s death, was made to carry on the valuable work the Howard family and Hope4Harper began when Harper was alive. At the Southern California lab, Dr. Muotri and his team are using Harper’s stem cells to grow “mini-brains” that will give researchers a unique view into the development and treatment of neurological conditions.
Penny now travels around the country to help raise awareness for conditions like Harper’s, speaking at a number of health conferences and business expos to further Harper’s legacy of hope. As an organization, Hope4Harper has raised almost $200,000 in donations for neurological research and continues to plan fundraising events in the future to keep Harper’s memory alive.
Katiele Fischer’s story unfolds similar to that of Penny’s. In fact, it was Penny’s Facebook page for Hope4Harper that led to Katiele discovering the benefits of cannabinoids for her own daughter, Anny.
The story of CBD in Brazil then begins in Texas and stretches 5,000 miles across the globe. Katiele was interested giving CBD to her daughter. However, all forms of cannabis were banned in Brazil at the time.
To fight for access to CBD for their daughter, the Fischer family took their case to court. After just three days, little Anny was granted permission by the Brazilian health authority to be the first person in the country to legally import and use CBD.
Since this event, Brazil’s health authority has eased access to CBD for patients in the country with a doctor’s prescription. Patients can apply for a special import authorization from the government to legally access CBD.
Without the the bravery of the Fischer family, this development may never have happened. This past year, these two families – the Fischers and the Howards – separated by thousands of miles, met for the first time during the Fischer family’s first trip to the U.S.
Damaris Higuera’s life changed forever the day that her daughter Sadie was born. Since that day, Damaris and her family have become unexpected cannabis advocates, bringing their family’s story to the world.
Sadie was born with a rare genetic disease. Given mere months to live, Sadie’s symptoms were placated only by a series of harsh medications that left her bloated and sickly. When even these treatments started to fail to show results, Sadie’s parents were given the choice of giving Sadie a “hero pill” that would ultimately end her life.
However, that was not an option her parents were willing to take, and they labored to find something else. It is through that determination that Sadie has achieved what she has.
The first day of school is a milestone all kids should get to experience, but one that Sadie almost didn’t get to know. Just days after celebrating her 3rd birthday, Sadie started a new chapter in her life by enrolling in school. She was dressed in her special customized “Off to School” shirt, made by her sister, and had plenty of grins for the camera as the family was eager to document her incredible achievement.
Damaris commented on this exciting new experience for her daughter, saying, “she’s going to make new friends… and have therapies that are going to help her move forward.”
Wanting to give something to Sadie to mark her many milestones, the Higuera family started reflecting about what she would want the most.
That is when the family reached out to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Their hope is to arrange a meeting through the foundation between Sadie and Mr. Trump. By sharing Sadie’s story with the next President, the family hopes to stress to him the importance of rescheduling cannabis. Removing cannabis from Schedule I will encourage further research into its medical potential and increase nationwide access to marijuana.
It is only through the effort of mothers like these that the cannabis movement has advanced as quickly as it has. Their powerful stories of struggle and persistence give others the strength they need to fight for the access to cannabinoids they so desperately need.
So let us take a moment this weekend to recognize the incredible effort put forth by mothers like Penny and Damaris who have sacrificed so much for their children.
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