While the propaganda-fueled negative stigmas about cannabis are fading away in the United States, the opposite is holding strong south of the border, in Mexico, where the plant has remained illegal for 90 years.
Since the prohibition of marijuana was enacted in 1925, following the International Opium Convention, few Mexican citizens have voiced recognition for the medicinal benefits the plant can provide to patients suffering from a variety of medical conditions, including anxiety, cancer, and ALS. Although measures to legalize cannabis for medicinal and recreational purposes have been introduced in the last few years, none have earned much support.
While some lawmakers, like Eduardo Santillan perez of Mexico City, believe that legalization of any kind would only worsen the public health issue of addiction, others have a slightly different point of view. Leader of the commission on youth in the lower house of Congress, José Luis Oliveros Usabiaga, explained:
“Almost nobody wants to study or talk about marijuana. If there’s an addict in the family, it’s shameful to talk about. It’s a taboo in Mexican society.”
In a recent historic ruling, however, federal judge Martín Adolfo Santos Pérez risked being viewed as an outsider by his peers. Pérez recognized the medicinal value of cannabis when he ruled that the Mexican government cannot prevent one Monterrey family from importing cannabidiol oil to protect the health of their epileptic daughter, Grace (photo below).
Grace, the eight year old daughter of Raul and Mayela Elizalde, suffers from a severe form of epilepsy known as Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, which causes her to endure hundreds of debilitating seizures each week. Born apparently healthy, in 2007, Grace’s condition has progressively worsened. Since Grace was diagnosed, the Elizaldes have tried powerful pharmaceutical therapy regimens and operations, as well as several holistic healing options, without any signs of improvement.
Mayela, Grace’s mother (photo below), reported that Grace has only gone backwards in development over the years. At one time she was able to say “mama,” but has since completely lost the ability to speak.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is the non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis that has gained national media attention for its success in reducing the frequency and severity of symptoms, including seizures, in those suffering from epilepsy. Since learning about the significant symptom relief CBD oil was providing for many epileptic children in the United States, the Elizaldes have set out on a quest to obtain it in Mexico with hopes that it may provide the same benefit for Grace.
Rather than acquiring and treating Grace illegally, Raul and Mayela reached out to Fernando Belaunzarán, a lawmaker who previously introduced a legalization measure, for help. Belaunzarán used the fact that the Mexican constitution provides citizens with the right to protect their health to request permission from Mexico’s health secretary to import CBD oil for Grace.
After 3 weeks of waiting, the Mexican government denied the request. Refusing to give in, the decision was appealed and overturned by judge Martín Adolfo Santos Pérez, on August 11. The Mexican government can still appeal judge Pérez’s ruling, but Grace’s parents are hopeful.
While Grace’s father, Raul, has not ruled out the possibility crossing the border from the United States back into Mexico with the CBD oil in his pocket, he would prefer to do everything legally. Raul explained:
“If they deny everything, I would do it. But what we’re looking to do is the correct and legal way. Because medically this could open things for more children who are in the same position.”
Hopefully Grace can set a precedent for other sick adults and children throughout the country by becoming the first person to legally use CBD oil in Mexico.
photo credit: Adriana Zehbrauskas/For The Washington Post