Epileptic girl challenges medical marijuana ban

2015-09-04 14:14
Mexican Graciela Elizalde plays at her house in the Guadalupe municipality, near Monterrey. (Carlos Ramirez, AFP)

Mexican Graciela Elizalde plays at her house in the Guadalupe municipality, near Monterrey. (Carlos Ramirez, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories


Is medical marijuana good for you? Watch to find out

2015-02-11 15:40

Our resident doctor, Dr Darren Green joins us in studio and weighs in on the pros and cons of medical marijuana. Watch.WATCH

Mexico City - Just eight years old, Graciela could become Mexico's first authorized consumer of medical marijuana to alleviate the hundreds of epileptic seizures that strike her small frame every day.

A judge last month gave her desperate parents permission to get a cannabis oil despite the government's opposition in a country engulfed in a bloody drug war.

Her parents have tried a slew of treatments, including brain surgery, to ease their daughter's pain, but nothing has worked and her condition has worsened.

They now hope that cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabis compound, can finally help her - if they can get it.

'She's like a baby'

Grace, who lives in the northern industrial hub of Monterrey, has a severe form of epilepsy known as the Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.

The brown-eyed girl moves around in a pink wheelchair, with her parents tending to her every need.

"When she was a year and half, Grace would say 'mommy' and she drank through a straw. Now she doesn't say a word, she takes a baby bottle and she crawls," her mother, Mayela Benavides, told AFP.

"She's like a baby, but one who weighs 18 kilos and is 1.15 meters tall," said Benavides, a 34-year-old engineer whose life revolves around caring for her daughter.

Government opposition

Despite surgery and alternative treatments, including equine therapy, her epileptic fits "have greatly grown in intensity, force and frequency, with 400 episodes (per day), without counting those she endures while sleeping," her mother said.

Grace's parents were losing hope until they learned about a child in the US state of Colorado whose epilepsy improved thanks to cannabidiol.

Her father, Raul Elizalde, drove 2 000 km to Colorado to get the medication.

But he was not allowed to buy it because he was not a resident of Colorado, which is among several US states that have legalised recreational or medical marijuana.

President Enrique Pena Nieto, whose government is fighting drug cartels in a conflict that has left tens of thousands dead in less than a decade, opposes any legalisation.

Yet, legalisation is making some headway elsewhere in Latin America.

Possible precedent 

Uruguay has created a regulated market for pot while Chile's lower-chamber of congress backed legislation in July to legalise the cultivation of marijuana for recreational and medical use.

Despite Mexico's prohibition, Grace's parents requested a permit from the health ministry, which said no.

The family's attorney took their case to court and, in a historic ruling, a federal judge ruled in their favour on 17 August, allowing them to import cannabidiol.

"A girl has removed the first brick from the wall of the absurd prohibition in Mexico," said Fernando Belaunzaran, a former leftist lawmaker who championed a failed bid to legalise medicinal marijuana.

He said her case could set a precedent for people who want such treatments for other illnesses such as cancer and multiple sclerosis.

But Grace's legal battle is not over if the attorney general's office seeks to overturn the judge's ruling, said the family's lawyer, Fabian Aguinaco.

'Life companion'

The attorney general's office, contacted by AFP, declined to say whether it has filed a challenge in the case or would do so before a Friday deadline.

While the legal battle is fought on the sidelines, Grace's family tries to soothe her epileptic convulsions.

Her mother dresses her, changes her diapers and gives her medicine.

The few times that Grace smiles, it is a sign that she is about to have another shock through her body. During the worst spasms, her body stiffens, her eyes move wildly from side to side and her breathing becomes difficult.

Her family fills the moments between crises with love and games, with Grace's younger sister, Valentina, often by her side.

When they go to the pool or go for a stroll, she musters the strength to clap.

"She's my life companion," Benavides said. "It's painful to see her suffering."

Read more on:    us  |  mexico  |  health  |  narcotics

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.