“I didn’t feel like I had a life until a few months ago,” 17-year-old Jen Collins says at one point.
Once you listen to her and her parents describing her life with epilepsy — sometimes experiencing dozens of seizures a day since she was diagnosed at age 8 — it’s hard to dispute her.
Jen Collins is the subject of a new short documentary from the Brookings Institution titled “The Life She Deserves: Medical Marijuana in the United States.” The 20-minute film shows her life with epilepsy and discusses how cannabis oil has changed it for the better.
The film also points out how difficult life can be for medical marijuana patients because of laws that change from state to state and a federal government that, while not currently seeking to shut down legal marijuana in states, is certainly not doing much to help patients, either.
Related: Federal bill to allow more marijuana research gets key co-sponsor
After her seizure diagnosis — and several years of frequent seizures, heavy medication (2000 mg a day of Depakote, at one point) and powerful side effects, both Jen and her parents were despondent. “It was just hell,” her father, Pat Collins, says. “(I was thinking,) this can’t be the rest of her life.”
Jen’s mother, Beth Collins, saw video of a boy in California who had successfully used cannabis oil to control his own seizures. Pat’s reaction? “Absolutely not, we’re not kooks!”
But once they tried cannabis oil, they saw a vast decrease in the number of Jen’s seizures. But the family was faced with a hard choice: They would have to move to a state that allows medical cannabis use, since Virginia still considered marijuana illegal.
Jen and Beth Collins made the move, and the proof is in Jen, seen in the video strumming her guitar like a healthy teenager. She says her routine of up to 18 daily medications for seizures is now down to one: Cannabis oil. They recently returned to Virginia to lobby the state legislature to allow medical marijuana use — a move that succeeded, when the state Senate voted unanimously to allow doctors to legally recommend CBD or THC-A oil for patients.
“I thought that was my normal at the time,” Jen Collins says at the end of the documentary. “But now that I’m looking back on it, I see how really awful it was.”
Her mother makes a noise off-camera. She’s crying tears of joy.
Watch the documentary:
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