'Pot (the movie)' features MN mom's legal troubles with medical cannabis

David and Angela Brown
David and Angela Brown are featured in "Pot (the movie)." Angela Brown will go on trial for child endangerment April 22, 2015, after the Browns used cannabis oil to help their son recover from a traumatic brain injury.
Courtesy Plato's Cave LLC/Hope Studios

Angela Brown tried all sorts of medication before she resorted to cannabis oil to help her son recover from a traumatic brain injury he sustained catching a line drive playing baseball.

But authorities saw her actions as child endangerment and charged her with a gross misdemeanor in Lac qui Parle County last August.

The Madison, Minn., woman will be featured in a documentary "Pot (the movie)," which premieres Saturday at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival.

Brown's son, Trey, was 11 years old at the time of his injury. He was hit on the left side of his head causing an inch-and-a-half bleed into his brain.

Doctors put him in a medically induced coma to stop his brain from swelling. For the following three years, he saw many different specialists: neurologists, naturopaths, chiropractors and endocrinologists, Brown said.

Trey developed Tourette's syndrome, experienced severe pain, muscle spasms, headaches and fevers, she added. He tried 20 different medications including mood-altering pills that Brown believes led to suicide attempts.

"They made him so suicidal that I could not even get up to go to the bathroom because I would come back and he'd be stabbing himself with something," Brown said, sobbing during a telephone interview as she recalled the incidents. "And he would hit the walls with this head, or punch holes in the walls with his fist, hit his head on the floor, hit his head and nose and face with his own fists."

After a doctor recommended she look into medical cannabis, Brown last March traveled to Colorado to legally purchase the oil form. She brought it back to Minnesota and gave it to her son.

"Once that hit his system, he melted. Literally just melted," Brown said. "Those muscle spasms stopped and it was amazing."

A few weeks later school administrators noticed Trey's symptoms were improving. They asked Brown for an explanation and she shared her latest remedy. Shortly after, law enforcement and family services intervened.

Authorities questioned Brown's decisions and accused her of causing her son's physical injuries, she said. She was charged last August. She pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to go on trial April 22.

"I never endangered my child. Ever," she said. "If you call holding him down so he doesn't hurt himself, working your ass off to try to figure out what to do to take his pain away, if you call that endangerment, then I don't know what (expletive) endangerment or being a good mom is anymore."

Messages left for Lac qui Parle County prosecutors were not returned.

Michael Hope
Filmmaker Michael Hope.
Courtesy Plato's Cave LLC/Hope Studios

Brown's story resonated with filmmaker Michael Hope. He highlights it in "Pot (the movie)," along with a few others in the film.

A former resident of Minneapolis, Hope contrasts his native South Dakota where marijuana laws are strictly enforced with states like Colorado, where recreational use of pot is legal.

Hope said the motivation behind the documentary is to educate the public on the history of marijuana and the most recent medical research. He says the plant's effects on the body have been misunderstood and confused with other substances.

"When you compare the repercussions of marijuana to heroin or cocaine or LSD or some of these more modern drugs, oxycodone and bath salts," he said, "I feel that it's poor public policy to try and tell kids that marijuana is comparable or equal to these other things."

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.