Mieko Hester-Perez wasn’t planning on being an advocate for cannabis growing up in Orange County, California. That is, until life put her on a path she never otherwise would have embarked on.
Cannabis was never an option for Mieko, as a child or as an adult. The legal services professional comes from a conservative family and embraces such beliefs to this day. Her extended family represents several slices of conservative values. They include three pastors, numerous uncles in the LAPD (some serving in the narcotics division), and her brother, a high-ranking firefighter.
While remaining conservative, Mieko Hester-Perez has fully embraced the progressive cannabis movement. Over the past decade, she has used her upbringing and beliefs to introduce an array of people to medical cannabis while advocating for families like her own.
However, Hester-Perez would not be in this position if it weren’t for her son, Joey. Born with severe autism, Joey often struggled with daily life. This included a wasting syndrome that left him at 46 pounds when he was ten years old. In addition to appetite struggles, Joey would harm himself on occasion during outbursts.
She knew that Joey’s diagnosis meant that a 9-to-5 job would not allow her to support Joey or her older daughter. Instead, Mieko Hester-Perez opened her own business, CA Corp & Attorney Services. Always one to conduct thorough research, Hester-Perez searched for treatment options while caring for her family and running a business. Her work put her in contact with doctors performing then-controversial cannabis treatments. Soon enough, she felt that Joey could benefit from such treatments.
Finding Success in Cannabis
Edibles allowed Joey’s appetite to change soon after consuming. His aggressive and self-injurious behavior subsided. Hester-Perez became a believer in cannabis. She wanted to do more for other families like her own. The legal advisor and advocate said that Joey became the biggest case she’s ever taken on. She explained why she decided to fight for Joey and others’ access to cannabis.
“I believe in [cannabis] so much. I was actually able to extend my son’s life. And once you save one life, it becomes contagious,” the mother and advocate explained.
Hester-Perez took her family’s story to the media. In 2009, an appearance on Good Morning America amplified the saga families like her own were going through. Stories like Joey and Mieko’s further normalized medical cannabis use, especially for those unlikely to support the cause otherwise.
Since the GMA appearance, Mieko has continued to share Joey’s relationship with medical cannabis on scores of news outlets in the U.S., Latin America, Australia and on several major online outlets.
Her legal experience would grow in the cannabis space, as would her advocacy know-how. In time, Hester-Perez would become an influential figure in the medical cannabis community across the globe. The self-described “autism warrior mom” embraced a role as a healthcare advocate. She took a particular interest in family courts, ensuring children receive proper cannabis care.
Other efforts include the co-founding of The Unconventional Foundation for Autism (UF4A), an advocacy and support network for families. At UF4A, Hester-Perez consults families, autism organizations, universities and the healthcare community.
Hester-Perez joined the advisory board for the bottle design, manufacturing, brand and sales company Acology Inc. The partnership led to the creation of an FDA-approved child-resistant container which would store the autism-spectrum specific strain of cannabis named after her son.
In the following years, Hester-Perez’s insights and influence would flourish. The mom and advocate would join boards, including the NORML Women’s Alliance and the Economic & Policy Impact Center.
Mieko Hester-Perez: A Lauded and Awarded Activist
Hester-Perez would earn accolades over the years for her efforts. They include the 2012 Evelyn DuPont Award for her work improving the lives of children with autism. Other achievements include the 2016 Chalice Festival lifetime advocate award.
Hester-Perez also credits the wisdom passed on by leaders in the space for helping her spread the word while learning about a once-foreign community to her. “I was very lucky to be able to work with some of the greats in the industry…the Kyle Kushmans and the Ed Rosenthals; the pioneers of this entire industry.”
She added, “I received a crash course like no one in the entire industry could have, having no experience with cannabis at all.”
Crash courses are no longer needed for Hester-Perez. Her expertise eventually brought her to Israel, where she’d form lasting connections with a number of groups, including mothers and business ventures. She recalled the impact speaking at an international event like CannaTech 2017 had on her. Calling the experience “eye opening,” Hester-Perez said, “At that time, I had been on every major network. I traveled all over the country. But now I’m in Israel. This is unbelievable.”
Calling the experience “magical,” Hester-Perez recalled bonding with the mothers. “They were fighters. They were everything that I was when I had went public in 2009.” She added, “I immediately had a bond with Israel.”
Her connection to Israel would be further cemented when she linked up with the medical cannabis company Tikun Olam at CannaTech 2017. The company began as a non-profit in 2005 by founder Tzahi Cohen after requesting the country allow him to grow 100 plants for the country’s medical cannabis patients. Mieko Hester-Perez began serving as a spokesperson for the company. She calls the role “the best pay it forward for me.” In 2019, she joined the company where she recommends the products, along with the strain Avidekel, in autism protocols.
While cannabis improved and lengthened Joey’s life, he sadly passed away in April of 2018. Mieko has chosen not to speak much about her son’s passing with the public since. However, she has continued to work in legal services, where she provides professional and advocacy advice. She also serves as a healthcare liaison for Wellness Works, a consulting firm adjacent to the Kannabis Works dispensary in Santa Ana, California.
Mieko Hester-Perez now hopes to use her experience and her family’s story as inspiration in other countries. In addition to the U.S. and Israel, she is now working on an autism protocol in her ancestral Puerto Rico.