My Case for Cannabis: How It Healed and Developed My Young Son’s Brain

By Dr. Annabelle Manalo-Morgan

The safety and effectiveness of cannabis as medicine to deal with medical conditions remains a hotly debated subject. Research into the benefits and risks of marijuana/cannabis use has been limited, leaving many doctors with more questions than answers.

But let me tell you my story about how cannabis is changing my young son’s life. 

Two days after my son Macario was born in 2016, he began having seizures. Over the next few weeks, those seizures would begin to occur up to 200 times a day. Those weeks were made up of moments that every parent dreads. Every drug regimen was attempted before we realized that the seizures would not stop and could soon take over the rest of his brain. 

A pediatric neurosurgeon suggested removing the entire left hemisphere of Macario’s brain, determining that was the only way to give him a chance at a life without seizures. 

But that option would mean Macario would face significant developmental challenges. 

Hoping to give him the best chance of some quality of life, I opted for 38% removal of the left side of his brain. He underwent nine hours of brain surgery at the age of 28 days old.

My husband, Gramps Morgan, and I were told Macario would never use the right side of his body and that he would be mentally challenged. We understood that Macario would likely never speak normally, would have limited movement, and was looking at a future defined by challenges none of us could fully predict. 

He was on so many different prescriptions that he was nearly unresponsive. Strangers would tell me he behaved so well, like an angel. They didn’t realize the reason he wasn’t crying and fussing was because he was continually under the fog of medication.

Research and a life-changing turning point

After his surgery, I did what any mother would do – I desperately searched for any possible remedy or cure or aid that could help in Macario’s recovery and give him a better chance at life. I’m a cell and developmental biologist, and doing deep research is a big part of my job. And because I am a scientist by trade, I translated my desperation into invention. So many innovations are born from a time of need, underpinned by a similar desperation or life-or-death drive, and what I did in the lab for my son is no different.

I knew the medications that he was prescribed post-surgery were keeping any further seizures from occurring, but I also knew that they were not contributing to his development. They act more like a band-aid, which is good, but I was thinking about his development long-term. In investigating the options to help Macario’s development, I read claims that cannabidiol, or CBD – one of hundreds of chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant – had therapeutic benefits for numerous conditions, including epilepsy. 

I knew there was going to be a use for my clinical trial certification. And what better time to put it to use than to experimentally analyze some of the CBD products on the market? Based on my research, I understood that an isolated form of CBD had a unique ability to naturally interact with the receptors of an individual’s endocannabinoid system to bring about homeostasis and internal repair within the body.

I hypothesized that using CBD to trigger Macario’s endocannabinoid system into action would encourage his brain and nervous system to repair on its own and give him a chance to develop by accentuating the processes that would otherwise naturally occur, like the active firing of synapses in the brain to form new and important connections.

In the summer of 2016, I developed the purest and most consistent form of CBD oil that my scientific expertise would allow, with no other cannabinoids or fillers. I took my son off his heavy drug regimen and began administering my creation directly through the feeding tube protruding from his little belly. 

The results were nearly immediate. Macario soon began to express emotion and had the energy for normal movements. He was walking by the age of 14 months. At the age of 3, he had nearly caught up to his peers in preschool. He could walk and run, giggle and play, and speak in the broken, fluttery English that define toddlerhood. Now at 7 years old, Macario is writing, spelling, and enrolled in regular classes at school. He hasn’t taken his antiseizure medications since I took him off in 2016.

Looking beyond the limits of what’s possible

Despite an inundation of the substance in the market, most individuals still don’t understand what cannabis, and in particular, cannabidiol or other molecules of the plant, can do for our health – and that includes individuals in the scientific community of which I’m a part. The industry is booming and there’s money flowing in seemingly every direction outside of the lab itself. We understand the potency of cannabis as a recreational drug – but we are only on the cusp of truly understanding its medicinal powers.

It’s time to cast off the taboo of weed culture and approach this plant with the level of scientific rigor it deserves.

Through my work developing pure cannabidiol oil in the lab during my son’s time of need in 2016, I saw the huge medical potential of cannabis firsthand. And in my work since, discussing my cannabis discoveries with dozens of in-need individuals and groups around the world, I’ve also seen firsthand that there are countless sick individuals who don’t know what they should try. We need to get this conversation started. 

Macario’s miraculous story isn’t just about the medicinal powers of cannabis; it’s a testament to what we have the power to achieve once we look beyond the limits of what’s possible. After all, the first step in any journey is believing. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the one thing that kept me strong during this entire journey – faith. 

The truth is there is so much about my son’s story that can’t be scientifically explained. But the research, our abilities to try to explain such phenomena or miracles, are our best chance at definition so that we can help others.

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