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Moms Are the Unexpected Voice of Medical Marijuana Advocacy

Chilean mother Paulina Bobadilla didn't intend to become one of Latin America's loudest advocates for medical marijuana. All she wanted was to help her child's epilepsy.

This post was originally published on Broadly Spain.

Paulina Bobadilla had never smoked a joint in her life—and it would have stayed that way, until her search to help her daughter's medical condition led her to weed and cannabis-derived oil.

Seven-year-old Javiera suffers from refractory epilepsy, a form of epilepsy where typical medication does not work well—or at all—to control seizures. Javiera was already on a rigorous daily regime of pills, all of which failed to ease her condition.


In her search for answers, Bobadilla watched a YouTube video of an American girl who suffered from the same illness as Javiera. The girl's parents extracted oil from cannabis and administered it to her in small doses, vastly improving their child's quality of life. She wanted to try it with Javiera. Her partner initially disagreed. "I don't want my daughter to be a drug addict," he said. She already is, Bobadilla told him.

They tried weed themselves first and then tried it on their daughter. A week in, the number of Javiera's seizures decreased, and the organization Mamá Cultiva ("Mom Grows") was born. Since 2012, Bobadilla and some other 20 mothers of children with refractory epilepsy, cancer, and other illnesses, have tried to spread the message of medical marijuana around Chile. Their message: "This plant changed the lives of our kids."

**Read more: What Happens When You Drink an Entire Bottle of *Weed* Lube**

Medical marijuana is gaining in acceptance throughout the world, but using it on kids remains controversial. "Mamá Cultiva was born from despair," Bobadilla told Broadly. "Neither drugs nor surgery could offer us a solution." Since founding the group, she has been supported by Daya Foundation, a non-profit organization that focuses on research and the promotion of medical marijuana. With Bobadilla at the helm of Mamá Cultiva, her group of Chilean moms pushed hard to change the conversation in their country about weed. They succeeded.


Today, 20 Chilean municipalities cooperate to cultivate Latin America's largest crop of cannabis sativa for medicinal purposes: 7,000 plants that will ultimately benefit up to 4,000 patients. The Daya Foundation has embarked on this experiment under the supervision of the government: Last December, Chilean president Michelle Bachelet signed a measure that declassified marijuana as a dangerous drug, and authorized the sale of cannabis-derived medicine.

Mama Cultiva protesters on a demonstration. Photo via Facebook

The moms behind Mamá Cultiva also grow their own marijuana according to their own philosophy: collective and communal homegrowing; legalization, and regulation. They want to cultivate the stuff that eases their kids' pain with their own hands, and share knowledge with other marijuana growers in solidarity. Most of all, they advocate for legalization and state regulation, to stop Big Pharma from taking over the marijuana trade.

Mamá Cultiva's roots have spread to other countries in Latin America. Across the Andes mountian range, Argentinian families are also flying the flag for the organization. Unlike Chile, the sale and cultivation of marijuana is still illegal.

In May, the families behind Mamá Cultiva Argentina (MCA) made their biggest public appearance yet at the Global Marijuana March in Buenos Aires, marching from Plaza de Mayo to the Argentine Congress. Many of Mamá Cultiva's child members joined the 150,000-strong demonstration in their wheelchairs. Their parents and relatives waved signs that read "Health is a right" and "Pain can't wait."


We had our kids drooling, staring into the void. Now our kids are laughing while they watch the Pink Panther.

"Who dares to say no to these mothers?" said West Cannabis Grower Association member and cannabis activist Matías Faray to the crowd gathered at the march, singling out the Mamá Cultiva protesters.

MCA president Valeria Salech climbed on to the stage and took the microphone. "This oil changed our lives," she said. "We were satisfied when we could restrain the seizures. But this oil happened to bring them back to life. We had our kids drooling, staring into the void. Now our kids are laughing while they watch the Pink Panther.

"Bring this message to your college comrades, to your neighborhoods," Salech pleaded. "We're asking for medicines. Please, explain this to everyone you know; to your parents. You are not misinformed, but you are poorly informed. Because somebody made people believe this is wrong."

"Prohibition has put therapeutic cannabis onto the worst scenario possible," said Dr. Marcelo Morante, a specialist at the Internal Medicine Department of the National University of La Plata in Buenos Aires. "Patients do not inform their practitioners about its use—they do it in isolation and without any medical control. We do not know what our patients are consuming. And, although law is totally necessary, so is education, and physicians [are] more committed with the suffering endured by their patients and their families."


We need daring mothers. We need mothers who won't allow their human rights to be violated.

Morante told Broadly that he believes in "less prohibitionist laws, and in the need of states to economically support development [by allowing legal marijuana]." Morante warned about the need for state intervention to stop those looking from medical marijuana from falling into the hands of drug traffickers. "Unfortunately, supportive networks of cannabis cultivators can no longer answer properly to the demand of such an amount of patients. If the government doesn't make itself present, drug trafficking rules will prevail."

He says that substances with therapeutic and psychoactive powers have always faced resistance: "It happened to morphine, and now it's the time for cannabis."

**Read more: The Women Making California's *Weed* Industry Less White**

Mamá Cultiva has put down roots in Chile and Argentina, but it is also spreading its message to other parents in Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, and even Spain. "We need daring mothers. We need mothers who won't allow their human rights to be violated," Bobadilla emphasized in her interview with Broadly.

Not too long ago, she went to Brazil to do some public speaking and raise awareness. One Brazilian mother who used medical marijuana wanted to give an interview to the media, but she wanted to remain anonymous on camera. Bobadilla told her that she needed to stand up to inspire other women to follow her example.

"Mothers were dependent on growers. We went there [Brazil] in order to inspire them, to tell them it is they who have to grow and prepare their own medicines," Bobadilla explained. When she first founded Mamá Cultiva, she couldn't have imagined that she would have sown the seeds for a network of mothers across Latin America, all fighting for medical marijuana. But as Matías Faray put it: Who would dare to say no to these women?