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tv   Dateline  MSNBC  May 13, 2018 3:00am-4:00am PDT

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stay-at-home mom with five kids. a hollywood happy ending? no. sometimes real life is better. that's all for this edition of "dateline." i'm craig melvin. thanks for watching. i'm craig melvin. >> i'm natalie morales. and this is "dateline." charlie has epilepsy and the one thing that seemed to help was an oil made from something you might not expect, marijuana. >> nothing had ever done this. nothing had ever touched her seizures. >> the oil is legal where charlie lives, but not where these families lived. >> i looked to see if my daughter's lips are blue. i watch when she sleeps. i look for the rise and fall of her chest at 14. >> now, these parents are fighting to make this oil legal
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and we're with them every step of the way. >> anybody say, well, that's crazy 'cause it's never gonna happen? >> you say marijuana, they are like -- [ gasping ] >> how much are they willing to gamble? if i have to choose between losing my job or losing my kid, what would any mother do? >> the promise. >> this is what you give up when you start using cannabis. >> the risks. >> we don't know the potential side effects. we don't want to make their seizures better and make their lives worse. >> and the families caught in the middle. >> it is awesome. i don't feel like a monster anymore. >> one kid, one day, of no suffering is absolutely worth it. hello. welcome to "dateline". should medical marijuana be legal? does it work? for which diseases? for doctors it is about the science.
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for lawmakers, it's about politics. but for the families you're going to meet, it's all so much simpler. it's about their children. here's harry smith. >> reporter: three mothers and their children. it's 2015. on this winter day in virginia, they have a big hill to climb. each child is desperately ill. each has a form of epilepsy. >> no one else that i knew had a kid with seizures this bad and no one knew how to treat it. >> reporter: illnesses so insidious, they have stymied an army of doctors and specialists. >> a year of huge emotional stress on our family. >> reporter: but these women believe there is something that might help, something illegal in virginia, an oil extracted from marijuana. what is your hope for medical marijuana? >> to meet our daughter to meet who she really is.
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>> reporter: to make that happen, these families are attempting to do something they have been told is impossible. they must change a law that has stood for decades. we'll follow them on a remarkable journey, not only through the halls of government, but to the rocky mountains, where people with all sorts of illnesses are seeking help. these people, marijuana isn't about getting high. it's about getting well. >> give kisses. okay. that's enough. there we go. lisa and bobby smith were elated when their daughter, haley, arrived on august 20, 2000. she was the perfect little baby, or so they thought. >> can you play some more? her first seizure was when she was five months old. >> five months? >> yeah. >> up until that point? >> normal, happy, developmentally, right on track. but she was also my first child,
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so i could have had blinders on and didn't see some of the signs that were there. >> haley's seizures became more frequent, more violent. >> she didn't get diagnosed till she was 7. that was a true roller coaster. >> yeah, 7 years old. >> awful, the first seven years, because we didn't know what was wrong with her. >> yeah. >> reporter: over the years, haley's mystery only deepened. she was eventually diagnosed with dravet syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy that can be fatal. treating it, quite often epilepsy drugs don't work. sometimes they do more harm than good. >> she was actually in the emergency room every week and that's not exaggerating, every week from january to april in 2005. >> come on, sweetheart. >> reporter: by 2012, haley was a teenage and the seizures had only gotten worse. >> haley was having about 300 seizures a year and to us, that was -- that was okay, you know, 300 seizures a year was -- it was okay. >> 300?
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>> yeah, we can handle that. >> nobody can comprehend that. >> right, i know. >> reporter: all those seizures took a toll on lisa, now also raising and home schooling twin boys, and bobby, trying to make a living as a contractor and support his family. >> what else starts with an h? in 2012, she stumbled upon a treatment. a mom in colorado said marijuana worked wonders. >> we were on dozens of drugs and each one of the ones was worse than the next. >> reporter: page figgy is that mother. she lives in colorado springs. her daughter, charlotte, was diagnosed with dravet syndrome as a toddler. >> she was on seven daily seizure drugs at 2 years old and had failed every drug at 2 years old as well. >> reporter: charlotte was so sick, she was in hospice care. page's husband, matt, was a
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green beret, deployed to afghanistan for much of this time. page felt very alone. >> i hit rock bottom with her. the hospital said there's nothing left. we don't have anything left to do. we're sorry. you should just go home and deal with this at home. >> so, when they tell you just go home, are they basically saying, go home and watch your child die? >> literally, i brought her home and i put her on a do not resuscitate. my husband had to sign it from afghanistan. and i was just going to say good-bye. and every night, actually, i will say this, i was praying for her to die because it was so bad to watch. the suffering that she is going through, you just wish. and she -- she didn't. so, it's hard for me to admit that, but she didn't. and it's very difficult to see a kid suffering that greatly that you actually do -- you just wish for it to stop. and in her care the only way for it to stop was for her to just pass away in her sleep.
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>> reporter: but page didn't give up. she kept looking. she and matt both discovered online reports of epileptic children whose seizures abated or even disappeared when they were given marijuana. they wondered if it could work for charlotte. >> we were in a legal state. i got her a red card. i got two doctors. >> for medical marijuana. >> for medical marijuana. and i just started looking into it. her epileptologist gave me the go-ahead. >> reporter: page was particularly interested in an overseas study that said oils made from a cannabis compound, cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive element in marijuana, seemed to be effective in reducing seizures a friend put page in touch with a grower. together, they made the oil for charlotte. >> she is catatonic in a wheelchair, on oxygen, on a feeding tube and i put it in her feeding tube, the oil. in a measured amount, very low dose to start and just waited to see if it would work. and she stopped seizing.
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so, she didn't have a seizure for seven days. didn't have 300 seizures that week. nothing else had ever done that >> time out. she is having 300 seizures a week. you think she's going to die, right? and you introduce this -- for the very first time, and it just stops? >> yep. her seizures stop and she didn't have a side effect. >> reporter: that was then. >> where are you going? up the trail? >> reporter: this is now. >> what are you doing? [ screaming ] >> reporter: that squeal of joy is from the now-8-year-old charlotte, or charlie, as her family calls her, speeding through the pine trees of colorado on the zip line her father, matt, built. >> a good zip liner. >> reporter: reading page and charlotte's story online gave lisa smith back in virginia new hope, but also cause for concern. the use of marijuana, even as a medicine, made her family uncomfortable. yet the benefits seemed to outweigh the stigma.
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pot, though, wasn't and still isn't legal in virginia. so the big question for the smiths was should they uproot their family and move to colorado? moving was not an option? >> i would say it was always an option but it was way off. >> what did you do? >> we chose to fight. we chose to fight. >> reporter: fighting meant lisa smith would have to get the virginia general assembly to completely change the way they thought about marijuana and convince them to change a state law. she knew she couldn't do it alone. >> so at age of 14, she has nothing left. if she was your child, what would you do? call them a band of mothers fighting fear of the unknown. can they change minds and the law? coming up -- >> did anybody say, well, that's crazy, 'cause it's never gonna happen? >> oh, yeah. all the outsiders said, no way, it will never happen. you say marijuana and they are like -- [ gasping ] when "dateline" continues.
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for more than a decade, lisa and bobby smith have cared for their daughter, haley, who suffers from a confounding form of epilepsy. over time, they have connected with other families in virginia with similar stories. in 2014, some of these families finally met in person at a seminar to learn how to lobby their state government. together, they decided to do
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something audacious, convince the state legislature to make legal room for a very specific medical marijuana. >> if it was just a matter of getting the oil for the children, health-wise, everybody is on board with that. >> we are from fairfax, virginia. >> reporter: this was the core group, beth and patrick collins and their daughter, jennifer, who suffers from jeavons syndrome, another extreme form of epilepsy. >> and jennifer has a statement, but she is a little nervous, so i'm going to read it for her. >> we came down to the capitol today to lobby for medical marijuana. >> reporter: rounding out the group, theresa elder, her daughter, ashley, and her son, tommy, now 22. he wasn't supposed to make it to his third birthday. the hope for all these families was that an oil extracted from a marijuana plant might help when all other medications had failed. so you, as a group, get together and say well, we have got to get the law changed in virginia. >> right. >> did anybody say, well, that's
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crazy, 'cause it's never gonna happen? >> outsiders. >> oh, yeah, all the outsiders said, no way, it will never happen. >> and why? >> because it's the m-word. you can be in there talking to someone, legislator, delegate, senator and they say, oh, hi, you know, what's your name, blah blah blah, you're talking and you say marijuana, and you can see the reaction change. >> reporter: changing the law in virginia is critical for tresa and heso >> as soon as tommy doesn't become a resent of virginia, he loses all the services that i fought 22 years to get. >> reporter: services tommy can't live without. >> like he has home nursing. now that he's an adult, he qualifies for medicaid. when your bills are between $500,000 and $600,000 a year, that's lot. >> reporter: so the virginia families' fight begins. on this day, they cram into a crowded hearing room, nervous, but determined to begin the long process of changing the minds
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and hearts of these lawmakers. the families are not asking to legalize marijuana in the state, but they are asking for permission to use cannabis-based oils that have shown promise in treating epilepsy. republican speaker of the house, james howell, listened to the parents in a meeting but was far from optimistic. >> please don't hold out any great hopes. it is a tough thing. i don't want to set up any false aspirations. >> no. no. >> reporter: a new law would have to pass both chambers of the virginia legislature. this is the first step, a committee hearing. the proceedings begin with state senator dave marsden explaining the bill he is introducing. >> virginians shouldn't have to become medical refugees from their homes and live in other states. if you with would, if you could introduce yourself. >> reporter: then, it's the families' turn. >> my name is beth collins and this is our youngest daughter, jennifer. she was going to testify, but she is not feeling well today. we had exhausted all other
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treatments. the side effects of her medication included rages, cognitive functioning issues -- excuse me. this was not the happy-go-lucky child i once knew. >> reporter: before beth collins can finish testifying, it happens, right there in the hearing room, haley has a seizure. lisa struggles to stabilize her daughter and tries to regain her composure. she still wants to speak to the lawmakers. >> this is lisa smith. >> reporter: she collects her thoughts and she steps to the microphone. >> this is -- this is normal for me. this is daily for me. it's been stated we don't know the long-term effects of medical marijuana. but i can tell you, i know the long-term effect of uncontrolled seizures. it will be cognitive decline and premature death. i look to see if my daughter's lips are blue.
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i watch her when she sleeps. i look for the rise and fall of her chest. at 14, that's not what we do. so, i ask you, i beseech you, please allow this to come out of committee. >> reporter: finally, it is theresa elder's turn to speak, she doesn't say much, but what she says comes straight from the heart. >> so, let me leave with you this, if i come back here next january, it's very probable i will come by myself. and you'll recognize me if i have an empty stroller, this very testimony will come flooding back to you. please, help us help our children. thank you very much. >> reporter: just seven days later, tommy would be rushed to the icu and put on life support. for theresa, and the other families, the stakes couldn't be higher. coming up -- >> i started to realize there's absolutely nothing that's unchristian about helping people with a plant. >> meet the remarkable stanley
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>> reporter: seven short days after theresa elder told the virginia lawmakers her son was running out of time, tommy elder was overcome by a powerful seizure. his sister, ashley, says it's never easy for her brother. >> sometimes, he will come up to you and just give you this look,
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like, hey, i'm about to have a seizure and i will, like, grab on to you. and then sometimes, he will kind of yell out as he is going into it and you just hear this big, you know, grunt or yell while he is going into his convulsions. it's pretty scary. >> reporter: this seizure lasted almost an hour. it was so severe, tommy was rushed to the icu. he went into respiratory failure. his lung collapsed and the seizures continued. his mother captured one on camera. theresa sat by tommy's bedside day and night as doctors work to stabilize him. this was the 39th time in his life that tommy needed life support. theresa and the other virginia families were now more focused than ever, but as the legislation that they believed would help their children made its way through the virginia general assembly, lawmakers continued to ask whether there was proof the oils even worked.
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the old hippocratic oath said, "first, do no harm." we seem to have abandoned that and replaced it with, "first, do something." >> reporter: to try to find the answer, we went to colorado. medicinal and recreational pot are legal here and because of that, the state has become something of a new force, with people flocking here for cannabis-based cures. >> the main character of this beautifully written novel are the stanleys. i would like them to step forward. >> reporter: in the middle of it all are the stanley brothers, all six of them. [ applause ] the brothers' story begins small in a personal way. they had begun to legally grow medical marijuana and gave some to a cousin dying from cancer. >> really prolonged his life gave him a better quality of life. i mean, the doctors pretty much told them, go home. >> get ready to die? >> yeah. >> reporter: but it was another patient who transformed the brothers' mission, for it was
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joel stanley who brought page figgy the marijuana that was just right for her epileptic daughter, charlotte. >> we had what she was looking for. a non-psychoactive type of plant. and i went to her house and i started talking to her and charlotte had two seizures right there within the first hour of us sitting down, talking. so, this became very real, but it became a very difficult question. will you make something for my child who is already very sick? >> reporter: charlotte figgy was the first person to get the oil the brothers made. >> what are you going to watch on here? >> reporter: page says it stopped her daughter's seizures. >> say i want minehaha please. >> i want minehaha. yeah. >> reporter: now, having hired botanists and scientists and built a lab, on a large scale, they are making the very oils the virginia families want to give their children. they named the first oil after their first user.
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it's called "charlotte's web." the oil was so effective, the figgys eventually took charlotte off of all of her meds and to >> we just do that in the morning and the night and that's all charlie needs. >> you have to indulge me on this. did anybody think it is a miracle? >> i still think it is. and then another one happens every day. >> so you're from this big family. evangelical christians, right? was there a part of whatever moral tuning fork is inside you to say this is a non-starter? >> a lot of evangelical families produce rebels? i mean, i was all about it. >> once i started to look into it i started to realize there's absolutely nothing that's unchristian about helping people with a plant.
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>> reporter: at the time of our interview, the brothers say the oil is now helping hundreds of other children with epilepsy. at the cost of $250 a bottle, it lasts two months. >> i wanted to have some kids come up. we are gonna plant this flower. >> reporter: a number of the families who come to colorado seeking help wind up at the realm of caring, a support group the stanleys helped establish. heather jackson runs realm of caring. zachai is her son. she says he has been seizure-free for the two years he has been on charlotte's web. >> people, they hear these stories, they see these children, they still find it hard to believe. >> i know. i mean, i would find it hard to believe if i wasn't living it. hopefully, what we will be able to do with the realm of caring foundation is to establish the research and collect it in a way that the science community can say that it's valid, because you're right, right now, his story is just anecdotal evidence. it is just a good story. it's a darn good story though. >> reporter: and yet, as encouraging as the anecdotal
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evidence may be, there's been no or little clinical research on the safety or efficacy of charlotte's web. because marijuana is known as a schedule one drug, it's considered by the federal government as dangerous as heroin. serious research in this country on marijuana treatments has been sparse. no one from the government, you know, has said, okay, buddy, you with this stuff, you're giving this to kids with epilepsy? are you nuts? you know, has the fda called you and said, where's the proof? >> we can't go making claims that are not approved by the fda and we don't. the resounding theme we get back from the regulatory agencies and the medical community is, um, let's research this. that was not being said a few years ago. now it is being said. >> reporter: miracle or not, it is precisely this oil, charlotte's web, that theresa elder back in virginia was praying her state legislature would allow her to possess.
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and even as her son, tommy, clung to life in an icu, there came a most unexpected visitor, senator dave marsden. >> he came to see tommy in the icu, which i believe helped him realize, wow, she is right. we don't have time. >> how are you? >> reporter: the senator decided to add an emergency clause to the legislation he was backing, a clause that would make the bill take effect immediately. if passed, the families' wait would be over. coming up --. can one drug really replace all these? >> this is what you give up when you start using cannabis. when "dateline" continues. show me minivans with no reported accidents. boom. love it. [struggles] show me the carfax. start your used car search at the all-new carfax.com.
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i'm dara brown. the hour's top stories. isis is claiming responsibility for a stabbing attack in paris that left two people dead. the suspect stabbed five people in a popular area near the paris
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opera. isis claimed he was one of their soldiers. but that claim has not been confirmed. north korea will hold a certificate known i later this month for the dismantling of a nuclear test site. a symbolic -- ahead of the meeting with kim jong-un and donald trump. now back to "dateline." charlotte's web, the mystery oil made from cannabis, it's what many of the virginia families are fighting to have access to, believing it may help treat the epilepsy that plagues their children. >> welcome to cw botanicals. >> reporter: we were invited for a rare look inside the lab where the oil is actually made. >> this is our rotary evaporator. >> reporter: this is the side of the cannabis business few people ever see. no tie-dye, no black lights no bob marley posters, just plants and science. bear real is the lead botanist in the stanley brothers' lab.
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this is charlotte's web? >> right. >> what do you do with this heater? >> right now, we make our whole plant extract with the plant. we cultivate it in the field. we grow it until it flowers. we harvest it dry and bring it back to the lab to do an extraction on it that turns into our charlotte's web oil. >> would you call that a marijuana plant or a hemp plant? >> a hemp plant. >> reporter: distinction that the stanley brothers and everyone that works for them makes between hemp and marijuana is important to understand. a botanist would tell you the plants are the same, but according to the federal farm bill of 2014, a plant with less than .3% of thc, the ingredient that gets high, is hemp. >> so, this is all hemp. it has lower than .3% thc. >> lower than .3? >> .3. that's right. but it has a naturally very high amount of cbd. >> reporter: cbd is the chemical compound some believe helps people with epilepsy. when you look at this plant,
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what do you see? >> i see beauty. i see wonderment. i see incredible opportunity. >> do you think the rest of the scientific community in america is seeing the same thing? >> i think a lot of people are waiting to see how it pans out. >> reporter: one of the people very interested in how it pans out is dr. amy brooks kayal, a neurologist in denver and the former president of the american epilepsy society. she says currently, there's just not enough science to prove the oils work or how they affect patients. >> there's no question that based on the science, that there is potential there for a component of marijuana and possibly cannabidiol to be an effective treatment but we don't know that yet and most importantly, we don't know the potential side effects. we don't want to make their seizures better and make their lives worse. >> reporter: dr. brooks kayal suggest some of the improvements parents are seeing may be a kind of placebo effect.
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the expectations of the family and the amount of the investment that the family made to get this therapy might have weighed into their perception of whether or not their child responded. >> reporter: she says more clinical studies need to be done. >> in medicine, believing that we know the truth without doing the study is a very unsafe thing to do. the reports from a single family or a single child doesn't mean that anybody else is going to respond that way. >> reporter: dr. alan boling is a yale-trained neurologist in denver who also wants to see more research. he says marijuana has the potential to impact a wide array of diseases, including his specialty, multiple sclerosis. do you see potential for marijuana as a treatment for ms? >> what i think holds lots of potential for the future is that there very clearly are marijuana-related biochemical systems in the nervous system and other parts of the body. >> reporter: in effect, he says the human body may be wired to
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utilize marijuana. dr. boling treats bob, who asked us not to reveal his last name. bob was a trial attorney for 25 years, until -- >> my 50th birthday, i was told that i had m.s. >> reporter: m.s. affects every patient differently, but dr. boling told bob there is research overseas that suggests marijuana can help with two of the most severe symptoms, muscle spasms and pain. bob buys marijuana at a legal dispensary and ingests it with a vaporizer. >> i use a strain called harlequin, which allegedly is 5 cbes to two thcs and i can take, like, two or three hits and it would really take the edge off the pain without getting me high. >> reporter: we traveled down i-25 from denver into the mountains of divide, colorado. there, we met army veteran, matt kale.
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>> weighed heavily on my mind for a very long time. >> reporter: kale has ptsd. after two tours of duty in afghanistan left him with a shattered skull and a litany of other conditions. >> i didn't believe that i had the right to live anymore. so, ten months after i got back, right before christmas, i attempted suicide for the first time. >> reporter: in his darkest hour, he tried smoking marijuana. he says it made him feel better and he became convinced it helped his condition. matt and his wife say they have no choice but to move from north carolina. i knew i had to move somewhere legal so i became a refugee from my home. >> a marijuana refugee? >> i live here in colorado now because here, you actually have freedom. this is my exit paperwork from the military. >> reporter: according to matt, the v a's treatment plan was to give him a menu full of
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prescription drugs that he says turned him into a zombie. >> this is what you give up when you start using cannabis. >> these are all meds that were prescribed to you from all of the different ailments that you suffered from? >> yes. >> reporter: matt says using marijuana helps him more than all the pharmaceuticals he was on, but without more research, there's no way to know for sure. for matt though, there's no question. has marijuana saved your life? >> yes. i wouldn't be alive today without cannabis. i would be dead. i guarantee you. >> did you get your husband back? >> i got my husband back. i got my husband back. yeah. and my best friend. >> reporter: back in virginia, there's good news for the families. after six grueling days in the icu, tommy elder made it home. and in the two months that have passed since we last saw them, the legislation they have been
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fighting for has worked its way through the virginia general assembly and now, it will all come down to a critical vote. coming up -- >> jennifer grew up here, you know? >> a family forced to live apart in search of a treatment for their child. will the upcoming vote help change that? when "dateline" continues. ♪ protect your pets from fleas and ticks with frontline plus for dogs and frontline plus for cats. its two killer ingredients work fast and keep working all month long preventing new flea infestations on your pet. frontline plus. the number 1 name in flea and tick protection.
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>> reporter: the virginia families enter the historic state capitol, on edge. it's now february 2015 and they have come a long way. after today, the law will either pass or the vote will be put off for at least a year. >> i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america. >> reporter: lisa smith is here with haley. theresa elder is here, too, though tommy couldn't make it. and patrick and beth collins are here with their daughters jennifer and alexandria. of the virginia families, the collinses are the only ones who experienced the benefits of cannabis oil firsthand. a year prior, after hearing about the charlotte's web oil, their family made a decision that beth and jennifer would move to colorado for the oil, while the rest of the family stayed behind in virginia. >> i felt we really had no other option, but to try it. we didn't really plan on too
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long, because it was too painful to plan out too long. this is our home and jennifer grew up here, you know? and my namly's -- family's here and my other daughter goes to school here. >> reporter: the driving force of the collin was the decision to split their family up were the side effects of the medicines jennifer was on, side effects which they say were getting more and more horrific. did you feel like you were losing your daughter? >> absolutely. losing our whole family. just watching her cognitively decline and watching these rages that, you know, were devastating for her mentally. >> we had times when we had to call 911 to come and have police come and help me because he would be out of town or something and, you know, i was afraid of my daughter. >> a little girl. >> a little girl.
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>> reporter: in colorado, beth got the charlotte's web oil from the stanley brothers and gave it to jennifer, but it didn't work. the brothers gave beth something else, thc-a. beth says that one did. what is it like for you to be free of some of those side effects? >> it's awesome. i -- i don't feel like a monster anymore. >> a monster? >> 'cause when i had the rages, i felt like a monster afterwards because i would just physically attack my parents and i didn't have any control over it. >> what would you tell people who think, we just think this whole idea of medical marijuana or that cannabis has any medicinal value, they just think that it's a bunch of baloney? >> i tell them i have seen it work. it worked with me. i have seen it work in a bunch
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of other kids. and that it's an amazing plant. >> you get on the plane, fly out to colorado, see with your own eyes what's happening. what did you think? >> this is amazing. she's back. my daughter's back. her personality, you know. >> life changing. >> reporter: but splitting the family, being apart was too much. beth and jennifer moved back to virginia and that's why on this february morning in 2015 they are gathered here with theresa elder and the smiths in the house gathering to await the final vote. >> the house is now in session. >> what this bill says one simple thing, if you or your child has intractable epilepsy and you are caught with this oil, the commonwealth of virginia is not going to make a
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criminal out of ya. >> reporter: the families sit, anxious, and waiting. >> the bills listed from pages 1 through 37 -- >> reporter: there are other bills up for vote first. >> house bill 1950. >> reporter: huddled, high above the politicians, deciding their fate and the well being of their children. finally, the bill number pops up on the vote board. the vote is called. the mothers draw in tighter and cling to the hope that all this hard work won't be in vain. "dateline" returns after the break. you okay? eczema. it's fine. hey! hi! aren't you hot? eczema again? it's fine. i saw something the other day. myeczemaexposed.com. your eczema could be something called atopic dermatitis, which can be caused by inflammation under your skin. maybe you should ask your doctor? go to myeczemaexposed.com
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welcome back to "dateline." now with the conclusion of "growing hope," here's harry smith. >> we cannot change the prescription. >> you could feel the tension in the public gallery at the state capital in richmond, virginia. but then as if the numbers on a lottery ticket appeared in a row -- >> ayes 98, nos, 0. >> they had won. >> they were told by a capital insider that emotion doesn't play in this building. really? the final vote was 98 delegates for and 2 abstentions. not a single no vote. the parents had done it. and they children had done it with them.
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two weeks after the vote, virginia governor terry mccause live walked into the office once obtained by thomas jefferson and signed the legislation into law. >> okay, folks, it is now law. >> i can't tell you how much i appreciate the work of the delegate. and i also want to thank the courageous mothers and fathers down here lobbying to get this legislation passed. >> reporter: all of the virginia families are here for this historic moment and haley, even with a life-threatening disease, charmed one last politician. >> every parent feels that same way. you were gonna leave the commonwealth of virginia. now, you can stay. and you saw the tears flowing down the cheeks of everybody in that room. they want to stay here. >> reporter: it is an important victory for these families, but it did not make marijuana legal in virginia. it allows them to possess with a doctor's certification, the oils from colorado.
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a big question now looms, because pot remains illegal at the federal level, is it legal for the families to get the oil in colorado and bring it back to virginia? technically, you still can't -- >> bring it in. >> mail it, drive it, fly it. technically. >> technically. >> right? >> but we are not technical people. >> yes, i'm hear to pick up some oil. >> so, where are you from? >> from virginia. >> virginia? >> reporter: one week later, bobby smith did travel to colorado to pick up the oil from the stanley brothers. >> most of them stop right there. >> reporter: because of the work the mothers did, bobby will not face prosecution for having the oil in virginia, but he is defying federal laws by taking it out of colorado. >> the moms ran the marathon and i got to finish it. thank you so much. >> nice to meet you. nice to meet you, too. >> wow. yes! as far as we have traveled, as
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much as the homes have done, our hope and prayers is that this medication works. ♪ >> reporter: as the sun rose in virginia, it was a new day. after bobby's first trip to colorado in 2015, hailey started treatments with charlotte's web. >> you ready? >> reporter: there was no anteguarit would work, but the smiths believe it was worth a try. >> there it is. taste like brussels sprouts? >> reporter: lisa and bobby are hopeful as they wait to see if it works. jennifer collins is using the thc-a she first tried in colorado, and beth and patrick are lowering the doses of her anti-epileptic pharmaceuticals. they recently shared that after two years, jennifer continues to respond well to medical marijuana. so now that you know that thc-a works for your daughter, are you
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prepared to break or circumvent federal law in order to make sure she continues to get it? >> we wouldn't have worked this hard for this bill if we weren't. >> reporter: for teresa elder and her son, tommy, the situation is a bit more complicated. theresa works for the federal government. by law, you can't possess it, because you are a federal employee, right? >> right. >> but do you have an overriding moral responsibility to your child? if a doctor says it might be able to help, if all your research says it might be able to help, do you help your kid or do you defy your government? >> that is the huge dilemma. because i can't defy my government, because i can't lose my job. but if i have to choose between losing my job or losing my kid?
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what would any mother do? >> reporter: as far as the parents in virginia travel and as far as that first mother, page figgy, traveled, all these parents say there is farther to go. >> the federal government needs to finally step in and get involved. >> reporter: page figgy is lobbying on capitol hill for a law named after her daughter that would make charlotte's web legal nationally. and all the virginia families are fighting for federal changes as well that would make medical marijuana easier to access and research. we had to face that that this is not fda approved, can't be, because it is a schedule one. >> reporter: taking their case to lawmakers like new york senator kristen gillibrand. >> congress shouldn't stand in the way of children to ho need medicine. >> reporter: dr. amy brooks kai y'all acknowledges marijuana's status as a schedule one controlled substance creates a catch-22. >> the fact that marijuana is a schedule one drug is a significant barrier to research.
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is it completely preventing it? no. is it slowing it down? absolutely. in my opinion, should marijuana be schedule one? absolutely not. there are known medical uses for marijuana. >> reporter: page figgy says because of those known medical uses, she will keep fighting until federal law is changed. >> i am just willing to go fight for this for other kids because i don't want even one more kid to have to go through -- if i have to fight all these years for this, to help one kid to not suffer for one day or one hour, it is worth it. i mean, one kid, one day, of no suffering is absolutely worth it. >> reporter: lisa and bobby say after a couple of months, haley is suffering less. after speaking to them last, she experienced a 60% reduction in seizures. >> nice job, haley. >> reporter: and in another positive development, they no
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longer had to fly to colorado. because of virginia's new law, the stanley brothers decided to ship it there and to other states with similar laws. >> yay, haley! >> reporter: despite of the fact that several federal agencies maintain that oils like charlotte's web are illegal. while the families continue their fight at home, in 2018, virginia law allowed they allowed the oils like ath-a. for these families, it has been an incredible journey that was once even considered impossible. but through it all, their inspiration has remained the same. >> there's nothing i wouldn't do for my daughter, either of my daughters. >> we are just like any other parent, trying to do what's best for their kid. >> and when you have access to
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it now, if you didn't get the oil now and you waited and she passed during a seizure, would you always say, why didn't we go? why didn't we risk it? you know, breaking a federal law would be okay if i still had my daughter. so, we choose for life. that's all for this edition of "dateline." i'm craig melvin. thank you for watching. good morning, everyone. i'm dara brown in new york at msnbc world headquarters. it is 7:00 in the east, 4:00 out west. do the right thing. new calls today for an apology from the white house following what one republican senator calls a disgusting joke about john mccain. what deal? new details this morning from the trump attorney rudy giuliani on what the president knew and didn't know about michael cohen's deal with at&t. and sharing the spotlight, why jared kushner won't be front and center at tomorrow's embassy opening in jerusalem. we begin with a live

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