After her 15-year-old son, Trey, sustained a traumatic brain injury that nearly killed him, Angela Brown, a massage therapist by trade and super mom by design, made every effort to track down the proper medical resources available in Minnesota to help expedite his recovery. Although Trey was extremely fortunate to survive the hemorrhage in his brain that happened as the result of being hit by a baseball, the violent blow left him to face countless obstacles that, unfortunately, no fathomable treatment or combination of prescription drugs seemed to remedy.
It was not until the Brown family made the decision to meet with dispensary owners in Colorado to discuss cannabis extracts that the situation began to improve. Almost instantly, doses of non-intoxicating cannabis oil, commonly referred to as cannabidiol or CBD, began to calm the symptoms of Trey’s injury, which put him on the path to finally living some semblance of a normal life. However, the news surrounding the illegal source of Trey’s miraculous progress fell on the ears of a snitch, which led to his mother, Angela being pursued by local law enforcement and ultimately charged with possession of an illegal substance and child endangerment — an offense that could result in her spending the next two years in prison.
During a recent interview, Angela Brown told High Times that before Trey was given cannabis oil, he was suffering from excruciating pain, muscle spasms and violent seizures, as well as experiencing suicidal tendencies and going through extensive periods of self harming as the result of certain prescription medications. “He had started hitting his face, either with his own hands, or he would hit his face on the side of the tub or on the wall,” explained Brown. “He started biting himself really hard on his hands and arms…and sharper objects he would start to stab at himself or cut at himself,” adding that his violent bouts of self harming have caused him additional medical issues.
Trey had lost his will to live, said Brown, who claims that her son’s episodes had gotten so bad that she could not risk leaving his side. She says that even the simplest task, like going to bathroom, had become virtually impossible because she was terrified of the condition she would find him in once she returned. “If you left him alone in a room, he would hurt himself,” she explained. “My son was suffering — he didn’t want to live. So I would hold him and I would beg him, ‘I want you to live, I love you — mommy will find an answer.’”
It was during this time that Brown said she was pleading with Trey’s doctor to conduct an MRI and additional tests, but he refused to do anything until his scheduled appointment, which was three months away. As time progressed, Trey’s condition worsened and the Brown’s, who had been keeping up with the news surrounding medical marijuana, decided that cannabis oil might be Trey’s only hope and began planning a trip to Colorado.
Brown said she had faith that medicinal cannabis could work for Trey because she watched it help her father in his final days. “When he was going through colon cancer, nothing worked for his pain or his nausea, and he went back to a friend that supplied him,” she said. “So after every chemo and radiation treatment, he would just go into the bathroom and smoke his joints or smoke his bowl, and he was better — he had a little bit of quality of life toward the end.”
Before arriving in Colorado, Brown said she struggled with anger towards God because she believed he was responsible for the terrible circumstances her family had to endure. However, she believes the hand of a higher power was truly at work during the family’s visit because she cannot otherwise explain the fortunate chain of events that led to a successful mission. Because the Brown’s were from out-of-state, they had some difficulty in the beginning locating a medical marijuana dispensary that could help them. However, on their last day in town, a dispensary owner invited the family back to their lab where, coincidentally, they met a scientist who too had suffered a traumatic brain injury as a child and was sympathetic to what they were going through. “He told us of his own story about how it took 35 doctors and numerous medications,” she said, before he reached out to the possibilities of medicinal cannabis. Now, he experiments with different hybrids to treat pain associated with brain injuries.
Ultimately, the Brown’s left Colorado with tincture oil containing a 1:1 ratio that within an hour and a half after consumption managed to release the pressure in Trey’s head. “He melted,” Brown explained, adding that the oil miraculously puts an end to her son’s muscle spasms. “It took away 75 percent of Trey’s problems.”
For the next month, Trey enjoyed some level of normalcy that was not seemingly possessed by some demonic level of unbearable pain and a hell-bent determination to give up on life. “Things are better,” said Brown. “He started going back to school a little bit,” which is where her problems with the law began. At a meeting with the school, the principal asked Brown what was contributing to Trey’s encouraging recovery. Admittedly, without a filter or consideration for the repercussions, she proclaimed to everyone in the room that her son was getting better with the use of CBD oil, which was a derivative of the marijuana plant. Brown said some of the faculty, including the school counselor, confessed to being pro-medical marijuana and suggested she was doing the right thing, while others clearly disapproved.
One week later, while at work, Brown said she received a phone call from her mother indicating that the Lac Qui Parle County Sheriff’s Department was looking for her, which she knew, without a doubt, spelled trouble. It did not take long before a couple of Sheriff’s deputies and a woman from Family Services was standing in her office.
Meanwhile, Family Services was also at the high school interviewing Trey in an attempt to find out “how much his mother was forcing him to smoke” and “how high was mom making him get,” to which Trey replied, he was not smoking anything, but using an oil that does not get him stoned. After he explained to the social worker that the cannabis oil helped to relieve his pain and allowed him to be somewhat functional, Family Services made the decision to dismiss the complaint. “They’re very compassionate women,” said Brown. “I was very grateful that they just dropped it.”
Unfortunately, the Lac Qui Parle County Sheriff’s Department was not as understanding. Deputies told Brown that if she did not surrender the cannabis oil they would be forced to arrest her and file formal charges with the county prosecutor. Incidentally, while trying to persuade the police to allow her to keep the cannabis oil, Brown received a phone call from Trey, who was in the middle of an episode. That is when she decided to invite the deputies back to the family’s apartment in hopes that if they had the opportunity to witness the severity of Trey’s condition, they would change their mind about seizing his medicine. That did not happen. “They’re watching him — muscle spasms, pain, anger, crying, and they still took that tincture from me,” said Brown.
Without the cannabis oil, Trey’s condition plummeted into a downward spiral, which eventually led the Brown’s back to Colorado where a specialist at the Children’s Hospital confirmed that he was in serotonin overload — a life threatening side effect caused by taking antidepressants. This is when Brown got serious about researching medicinal cannabis in hopes of learning more about how she could help Trey live a better life. “I never gave up on my son because the cops slapped my hand,” admits Brown. “I will always fight for my child.”
Tragically, the serotonin overload caused Trey to suffer irreversible brain damage, which Brown admits would have never happened had he not been poisoned by prescription medications and simply allowed to use cannabis oil. “I just feel like I don’t have much hope of ever getting my son back,” she said.
Although Minnesota recently passed legislation to establish a statewide medical marijuana program in 2015, there is very little chance that Trey’s tincture will be permitted under the law. This has caused the Brown family to seriously consider a move to Colorado, although, admittedly, they want nothing more to stay at home in Madison. “We’ve been here for 18 years, and we’re just a skip away from South Dakota where my husband and I grew up,” she said. “So, I don’t want to [move], but we have to, at this point. I just don’t want to wait anymore to treat my son.”
However, the family cannot make plans to start a new life in Colorado just yet. After the Sheriff’s deputies seized Trey’s cannabis oil, they filed charges against Brown and turned the case over to the county prosecutor. “I got two gross misdemeanors from it,” said Brown, who claims she had no idea they would charge her with a crime. “I just figured it was dropped. I handed over the oil, Family Services had dropped it, we just went on with our lives — never talked to anybody about anything after that.”
Brown said she was never arrested and was not aware she was being charged with the offense until her husband found court documents in the mailbox of their previous address. By that time, she had already missed two court dates and had a warrant out for her arrest. Fortunately, she was able to get the warrant dismissed and set a new court date, which took place on August 18. Yet, the financial strain of Trey’s medical needs forced Brown into using a public defender. “We don’t have the money for a lawyer,” she said, adding that even after filing bankruptcy, a lapse in the family’s medical insurance has created over $5,000 in hospital debt.
While in court, the prosecutor’s assistant went after Brown with all guns blazing, demanding that both she and Trey undergo weekly urine analysis, as well as for Family Services to re-evaluate the case in order to determine whether Trey should be placed in foster care. “The judge looked at her like she was insane,” said Brown, adding that the request was, ultimately, denied.
The following Wednesday, Brown met with the court-appointed attorney, whose only advice was to plead guilty to the charges and suffer through a year of probation. However, Brown refused, saying that while she understands she was in possession of an illegal substance, she does not believe she is guilty of child endangerment. “I refuse to plead guilty to child endangerment,” she said. “Because I did not endanger my child, I helped him.”
Fortunately, the media attention surrounding the Brown’s tumultuous affair caught the attention of Oregon trial lawyer Michael Hughes, who specializes in marijuana criminal cases. He has since agreed to handle the Brown’s case pro-bono. They are due back in court on September 29.
In the meantime, Brown says she is doing her best to stay light-hearted about the situation while looking toward a brighter future for the entire family that includes getting Trey involved in a medicinal marijuana study. She says regardless of where the family ends up relocating, they plan to pursue medicinal cannabis for their son. “We do know what is best for Trey, at this point.”