Medical Marijuana Access a Major Political Issue for Texas Family with Disabled Daughter

Medical Marijuana Access a Major Political Issue for Texas Family with Disabled Daughter

Christi and Mark Zartler of Richardson, Texas, might not seem like obvious supporters of broader legalization of cannabis. Yet the family, and their daughter, Kara, 18, have become vocal and visible champions for greater rights to access medical marijuana in Texas.

Medical marijuana has helped Kara Zartler lead a life that’s more typical of a teenager. In late September 2018, Kara went to her homecoming and pep rally and met members of the football team at J.J. Pearce High School in Richardson, where she has three more years before she graduates.

“Kids like Kara go to high school for eight years,” said her father, Mark Zartler, a software engineer who works from home.

Kara, who is non-verbal, has cerebral palsy and a severe form of autism, which includes self-injurious behavior.

“Kara started punching her face when she was 4, up to 3,000 times a day,” said Kara’s mother, Christi Zartler, a pediatric nurse practitioner.

“We tried speech and occupational therapy, even sign language, to help her communicate and we gave her countless pharmaceutical drugs,” she told “Nothing worked until we started using cannabis seven years ago. The problem is that what Kara needs is not legal in Texas.”

Texas’s medical marijuana program, the Compassionate Use Act, covers only one medical condition: intractable epilepsy.

“Kara has an oil, an edible, and we use a vaporizer. So, we’re breaking the law right now,” Christi Zartler said.

No one seemed to bother the Zartlers for breaking the law until March 2017, when Mark posted a video to Facebook of him giving Kara a cannabis treatment.

In the video, shot in the Zartlers’ living room, Mark gently placed a medical mask filled with cannabis vapor over Kara’s mouth and nose as she repeatedly punched her face. Within five minutes, she calmed down.

“There’s not a pharmaceutical medicine in the world that will help her calm down that fast,” Christi Zartler said.

Several weeks later, Child Protective Services (CPS) showed up at the Zartlers’ suburban Dallas-area home. They said they were investigating Mark for giving his daughter an illegal drug and placed his name on a Child Abuse Central Index in Texas. Mark and his wife were still able to gain legal guardianship of Kara when she turned 18. Kara has a twin sister, Keeley, who didn’t inherit the same health issues.

Their struggle to legally treat Kara with cannabis has transformed the Zartlers, both former Republican voters, into legalization activists. They said that this year’s midterm elections are the most highly charged political showdown they’ve faced yet, in part because Republican U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions is their congressman.

The Zartlers live in Texas’s 32nd congressional district, which includes northern Dallas and the surrounding suburbs such as Richardson. Sessions, an 11-term Republican congressman first elected to Congress in 1996, has won every election for the House of Representatives since 2002, often by a landslide. This year’s midterms might turn out differently.

“Sessions is a national problem,” Mark Zartler told

As chairman of the House Rules Committee, Sessions has prevented up to three dozen cannabis amendments from reaching a vote on the House floor. Sessions’ opposition extends to medical marijuana.

Sessions has called cannabis advocates “merchants of addiction.”

Mark Zartler called Sessions a “blocker of federal cannabis reform.”

Sessions’ Washington and Dallas offices declined to comment after several attempts by

“Anything with the word ‘marijuana’ in it gets rejected by the committee and never sees the light of day,” Mark Zartler said. “The difference now is that here in Dallas County, we actually have a chance to unseat Sessions with Colin Allred.” A civil rights attorney and former linebacker with the Tennessee Titans from 2007 to 2010, Allred supports medical cannabis and decriminalizing marijuana possession.

According to a Sept. 27, 2018, New York Times/Siena College poll, Allred is running practically neck-and-neck with Sessions.

For the Zartlers, campaigning for Allred is a family affair.

“Colin is dynamic and he’s moving Dallas County forward with a progressive program – not just about medical cannabis. He’s different in every way from Sessions,” Mark Zartler said.

The Zartlers’ Republican friends and colleagues haven’t given their blessing to the Zartlers’ outspoken support for a Democrat or for medical cannabis.

“There are a few people who tell me that I’m doing wrong by Kara, including lawmakers, but she’s doing better than ever. She stopped her self-injury and has gained developmental skills and maturity,” Mark Zartler said. “It’s not really a debatable issue.”

Mark Zartler noted that even Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is modifying his attitude toward cannabis.

In a televised public debate with Democratic challenger Lupe Valdez on Sept. 28, 2018, Abbott said, “One thing I don’t want to see is jails stockpiled with people who have possession of small amounts of marijuana.”

Among his supporters, and now some of his colleagues, Sessions remains in a small although powerful minority.

“There’s a good 80 percent or more of Texans who support medical marijuana,” Mark Zartler said. “Pete Sessions refuses to listen, so we need to vote him out. The whole country will thank us.”

Author: Maureen Meehan,

How My Body Reacted To Taking CBD Oil For 30 days

Cannabis and the Body: How Can Weed Help Us Focus on Work and Chores?

Marijuana can energize us, soothe ragged nerves, give us the giggles, or produce a contemplative state.

Yet can we also harness the power of the plant to boost productivity? We’re talking about those times when we’re facing a killer deadline on a massive pile of work. Might a few hits of cannabis, in one form or another, supply us with the laser focus and hyper-clarity we need to power through that project? posed the question to Dr. Byran Doner, an osteopath who is chief medical officer with Compassionate Certification Centers, a national cannabis healthcare network. Dr. Doner, who trained in emergency medicine and is a member of the American Academy of Cannabinoid Medicine and the Society of Cannabis Clinicians, spoke to us from his home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: I’ve got a monster project at work? Can I use cannabis to help me focus?

A: Absolutely. Overall, what cannabis can do is help quiet the noise, which in turn, helps people achieve mental clarity and stamina. It’s similar to how cannabis helps patients with PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder]. They often feel flooded with sensory information and that becomes overwhelming. Cannabis can lower the volume.

Keep in mind that using cannabis effectively always depends on the strain, the cannabinoid profile and the route of administration.

Q: What’s a good place to begin?

A: For starters, a situation like a crushing deadline comes with a lot of stress and anxiety. These symptoms, of course, can be distracting and undermine your ability to stay focused. I think the most effective cannabinoid, or compound of the marijuana plant, in addressing that angst would be cannabidiol, or CBD, which is calming.

Q: What’s the best way to consume CBD to lower stress?

A: Orally. When you consume CBD by mouth, it’s processed by your gastrointestinal tract. That means it has a delayed onset on the front end and a prolonged effect of six to eight hours on the back end. You can use that timing to your advantage to promote a sound sleep that will leave you feeling rested and less anxious in the morning.

I would suggest taking an edible CBD, in whatever form you prefer — gummies, drops, an oil mixed into a liquid — about an hour to an hour-and-a-half before going to bed.

Q: Are there products containing THC that can help sharpen concentration?

A: Yes, but it really depends on the individual. You can have two patients with the same exact symptomology and goals, and one cannabinoid profile will be effective for one, but not for the other. Anyone who tells you with a straight face that if somebody wants to focus they need to take this strain at this dose at this frequency isn’t being honest. At this point, there’s no research to point us to that defined an algorithm. It takes trial and error to find what works for you and it depends on many variables, including whether someone is an experienced cannabis user.

Q: What do we know right now about cannabis strains that can improve focus?

A: If I wanted to help an experienced cannabis user improve focus, I would suggest a strain with a broad-spectrum cannabinoid profile, a nice balance of CBD, THC and, perhaps, THCA. A reasonable starting point would be a product that’s 50-50 CBD-THC.

Then, you need to be mindful of how different modes of administration work. Inhaled cannabis, vaporized or smoked, works quickly but isn’t going to last that long. The onset of effects is two to four minutes and the duration one to two hours. So, that’s a good form when you need to focus for a brief period of time.

Conversely, oral preparations have a delayed onset but will last much longer.

A reasonable place to start is with a product that has a 1-to-1 ratio of CBD to THC. Then I’d adjust based on the patient’s response. If they come back and say, “Whoa, that was way too psychoactive. I didn’t feel I could really function or get in the car and drive,” then I’m going to back off the THC component a bit and go heavier on the CBD. Maybe I’d suggest a 3-to-1, CBD-to-THC ratio.

Q: It sounds like using THC to improve focus isn’t something you’d want to do right before, say, studying for the bar exam or tackling a really important work project?

A: That’s absolutely correct. If you’re a naïve cannabis user, I would never suggest trying THC for the first time, or the first time in years, right before that critical test or project.

I would want to put that person on a CBD-only preparation. Again, we know that CBD is anxiolytic, an effective anti-anxiety medication.

And what I’ve found with many patients, whether they’re being treated for pain, PTSD or seizures, is that even a very, very small amount of THC in a CBD-dominant product can have profound benefits. We’re talking about a ratio of 18 or 20 to 1 CBD-to-THC.

The question becomes, what’s your time frame for figuring out what works for you? Do you have a month? Or is that test or project coming up in two days?

Q: So, the best strategy might be to start experimenting on a weekend with a project like cleaning out your closet?

A: I couldn’t agree more. Choose a time and a project where the consequences of having to adjust the cannabis product are minimal. If you have a big project today or tomorrow now is not the time to start messing around. The last thing you want is to have the reaction, “oh, my god, this isn’t working. I feel weird.” Give yourself the time and space to find what works for you.

Author: Shelley Levitt

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