This piece first appeared in Cannabis Now.
The faithful call Utah Zion, but liberals call Utah’s mostly conservative laws “The Zion Curtain.” Sarah Ellett is a mother of three disabled children. Her daughter Remie suffers from panhypopituitarism, a thyroid disease that forces Remie to eat through a feeding tube. A tipoff led The Utah Division of Child and Family services to come knocking on Sarah Ellett’s door. Now, Ellet is doing everything she can to fight for the right to treat her daughter the best way possible.
“I’m not sure what to do,” Ellett told the Salt Lake Tribune. “One thing I want to do is continue treating Remie, and if I stay in Utah, I can’t keep treating her… I can’t take that chance because they will take her.”
Ellet is a single mother who lives in Nephi, Utah, a predominantly Mormon city in Central Utah. She had been traveling to Portland, Oregon, to obtain a medical cannabis card as Oregon allows out-of-state patients to participate in the state’s cannabis program. [This out-of-state policy was discontinued on January 1, 2016, falling victim to new laws which allow for wider adult use in the state — Ed.] For seven months, Sarah administered small drops of cannabis oil with a toothpick under Remie’s tongue. Remie has since begun walking, swimming, and showing other areas of improvement.
“She started jumping on the trampoline,” Ellett explained. “She just started being able to make movements. Instead of sitting there being the observer, she started being a participant in the family.”
To continue providing her daughter with cannabis Ellet is now considering a move to a medical marijuana state as she fears action from child and family services.
“They told me they needed to make sure that Remie wasn’t in any danger,” Ellett told People. “I told them they would have to leave and talk to my lawyer. They were polite and said they were sorry they had to be there, but it did cause me concern. My biggest worry is being unable to continue to treat Remie without being in violation of Utah law. There are a lot of risks there.”
Panhypopituitarism slowly destroys the functionality of the pituitary gland causing blurred vision, low blood sugar and stunted growth. Traditional therapy consists of dangerous growth hormones and hydrocortisone.
“The cannabis oil is a miracle — it’s what is giving her a good quality of life,” Ellett said. “The very first day Remie had it, she walked on her own for the first time. It’s helped balance her blood sugar, controlled her nausea, and enabled her to move her jaw, chew, and swallow. Because of this oil, she’s achieving milestones that we never thought possible.”
Ellet says that Remie and four of her other seven children suffer from a genetic condition called familial polyposis. All could benefit from the effects of cannabis oil.
“Once again, we see Utah state agencies enforcing outdated and ignorant cannabis policy, and again the outcome is unjust and cruel at best,” Mark Madsen said to People regarding Ellet’s situation. “How many more parents, like Sarah, and their sick children, like Remie, will Utah government force to flee to more enlightened and compassionate states before their elected representatives start respecting them enough to return the freedom and choice that never should have been denied them to begin with?”
Madsen’s Bill, Senate Bill 73, would only allow patients access to medicinal cannabis in the form of cannabis oil or in edible form.
“Sarah is terrified — the state truly has all the power,” warned Ellett’s friend, Christine Stenquist. Stenquist is cofounder of Utah’s TRUCE or Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education, a local advocacy group.
If Ellet is successful at securing access for her daughter Remie, her case could have implications for the scores of other mothers that illegally treat their kids with cannabis in Utah.
For more info on the plight of the Ellett’s follow the Sweet Small Remedy Facebook page.
Should parents be able to do whatever it takes to ensure the health of their children? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Benjamin M. Adams is a contributor for Cannabis Now Magazine, MerryJane.com, Cannabusiness.com, and DirectCannabisNetwork.com. His work has been seen in Culture Magazine, Treating Yourself Magazine, SKUNK Magazine, and several other cannabis-related publications. He studied Art at the University of Utah and has traveled around the world from the open hash markets in Copenhagen to Jamaica. He’s focused on the efficacy of medical marijuana for HIV and other serious illnesses. Ben lives in Southern California. You can follow him on Twitter @benbot11.