A fifteen-year-old taken into custody by Georgia’s Division of Family and Children’s Services after his parents gave him marijuana to stop his severe seizures has been reunited with his family after more than a month of separation.
On Monday, the Twiggs County Juvenile Court issued a protective order outlining the conditions under which Matthew and Suzeanna Brill could regain custody of their son, David Ray. The Brills still face criminal charges for providing their son with cannabis. But following the conditions of the protective order could lead to the case’s dismissal.
Georgia Parents Say Only Smokeable Cannabis Stopped Their Son’s Seizures
Medical marijuana is legal in Georgia, and epilepsy is a qualifying condition, even for minors. Recently, the state has made moves to expand its medical marijuana program while reducing penalties for adult use.
Still, smokable cannabis remains illegal in Georgia and is not one of the authorized forms of medical marijuana that patients can legally obtain.
The Brill family knows the laws, and they aren’t denying giving smokeable cannabis to their son. They did, however, feel compelled to offer marijuana to David after prescription drugs and legal cannabis oil failed to reduce the severity and frequency of his seizures.
According to the Brills, smoking cannabis gave their son a 71-day stretch without seizures. But after learning that the boy’s parents had supplied him with an illegal form of medical cannabis, officials accused the Brills of abusing their son.
The Brills, however, say they weren’t abusing their son. They say they were caring for him the only way they could.
ACLU Steps In to Reunite Georgia Parents With Their Son
In May, the Twiggs County sheriff’s office charged Matthew and Suzeanna Brill with reckless conduct for providing their son with smokeable marijuana.
The Brills never denied they had given their son cannabis and were upfront about their reasons for doing so. “We openly admitted to them … in front of Twiggs County sheriff’s deputies,” says stepfather Matthew Brill.
But Georgia’s Division of Family and Children’s Services took custody of the Brills’ son. They said the boy’s parents had created an unsafe living environment.
Then, last week, the Brills got some help from the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU filed an amicus brief with the Twiggs County Juvenile Court in support of the family and appealing to the court to reunite them.
This isn’t the first time the ACLU has stepped in to defend parents criminalized for attempting to treat their children with medical cannabis.
The ACLU’s brief ultimately led the court to issue a 12-month protective order. Juvenile Court Judge Sam Hillburn issued the order, which requires the Brills to check in twice a month with DFCS.
Furthermore, the protective order requires David to submit to monthly drug tests. David can still take his prescribed epilepsy medications, including cannabis oil. The family will also provide DFCS with David’s medical records.
Juvenile Court Judge Could Throw Out Reckless Conduct Charges
Judge Hillburn appears to be taking a sympathetic approach to the case pending against the Brills. The protective order reunites David with his parents. But it also gives the Brills a chance to have their charges dismissed.
Hillburn has scheduled a review of the Brill case in six months. If David does not test positive for THC and his parents are fully cooperating with DFCS, Hillburn could terminate the protective order and dismiss the criminal charges pending against Suzeanna and her husband.
“It was hard being away from my dogs, my mom and my sisters and my stepdad and all them,” David said after the judge reunited him with his family. “I’m actually kind of happy that I’m finally going home.”
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