PHOENIX - A Valley mother says she tried everything to help her daughter deal with daily, debilitating seizures, but no medication was helping. That's when she turned to something else she never imagined, medical marijuana.
Emma is a pretty typical 15-year-old, excited by a new school year, but her life wasn't always so happy.
"When she was born she was perfectly healthy and we didn't have any medical concerns or worries to speak of," said Jessica, Emma's mother.
When Emma was about 4-months-old, they started to notice she had a hard time focusing her eyes, and she was diagnosed with optic nerve hypoplasia.
"Her pituitary gland isn't formed correctly, so it causes issues with vision and hormones," says Jessica.
On top of that Emma would have seizures, and as she got older they didn't stop.
"We probably tried, I don't know, 8-9 pharmaceuticals to varying degrees of success, most of them had horrible side effects that were worse than the seizures themselves and I just couldn't put her through that, it was just too hard," said Jessica.
A doctor thought brain surgery might be the only thing that could help. That's when a friend of Jessica's asked if they'd ever tried medical marijuana. Jessica initially dismissed the thought.
"In all honesty, my husband and I were very conservative, we voted against it in 2010 we didn't think it had any medicinal value what so ever, so when I heard about this I was kind of in shock," explained Jessica.
But she started doing research, reaching out to other parents that were treating their kids with similar symptoms with cannabis.
"It has that stigma surrounding it and so I was like, yeah, this is a drug, this is what I learned about in dare, so no to drugs, this is right there with it, but on the other note, I feel like I've tried so much for her, so why wouldn't I look into at least something that had more possibility and give it a chance, you know," said Jessica.
Emma started taking cannabis when she was 9 and a half years-old.
"She had stopped having daytime seizures once we went gluten-free, it was crazy and then I introduced cannabis and she stopped having nighttime seizures and she went a period of two years only having one seizure, it was phenomenal," says Jessica.
Jessica spends about half an hour every week carefully measuring out and stuffing Emma's cannabis into capsules for the week ahead.
"Western medicine is great and doctors are fantastic and I feel like there is a good balance between western and eastern and I was kind of set out to find that balance," explained Jessica.
Emma is still one some pharmaceuticals, but the family credits the marijuana in stopping the seizures.
"If somebody wants to speak negatively about our journey and our struggles, that's fine, they're not walking in our shoes so I really don't care if people have negative things to say," says Jessica. "My goal is just to share stories and just provide encouragement and education and hopefully some inspiration."
Jessica has become such a believer in using cannabis for medical purposed, she has actually started working in the medical marijuana industry.