Most of us celebrated Easter last Sunday in traditional ways. A nice church service, maybe an egg hunt with the kids.
In Colorado, they celebrated pot that day.
Talk about your happy Easter.
Yes, it's true, thousands of people gathered for a weekend of festivals and entertainment to, well, kind of honor cannabis in the first state in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana.
Before you get the wrong idea, pot users can be Christians and celebrate Easter, it's just that the event coincided with the holiday (4/20) because 420 apparently used to be a clandestine term used to refer to marijuana.
Denver wasn't the only city in the country to hold a marijuana celebration on April 20, and some feel that cities in all 50 states will someday be celebrating the decriminalization of pot.
But pot holidays will never go mainstream in Minnesota, and Jeremy Pauling of Montevideo has no desire to attend a party in honor of cannabis, but he's one of hundreds of people who want to see the day come when those who need the drug to relieve their pain or curb their seizures can get their hands on it - right here in Minnesota. If medical marijuana is legalized, the Pauling family might just throw a party of their own. And here's why:
Seven-year-old Katelyn Pauling has Battens, a recessive neurodegenerative disorder that strikes about 1 in 100,000 kids. Katelyn's father, Jeremy, thinks his daughter is one of five kids in the state that has it.
"It basically eats away at her brain," Jeremy said. "When she was 3, she was a happy, healthy child, bouncing off walls, walking, talking. Then after she turned 3, she started having seizures. We were told she would grow out of it."
She never has.
In fact, Jeremy estimates Katelyn has anywhere from 50 to 60 seizures every day - some more severe and frightening than others.
"Her brain will shut down for a second, then start up again," Jeremy said. "A lot of nervous twitching. She'll have laughing seizures where she'll laugh for two hours straight. Then usually they'll turn into crying seizures where she cries for two hours straight."
Katelyn also suffers grand mal seizures - the great whites of all seizures - where she jerks uncontrollably and loses command of her body. "Her longest was three minutes," Jeremy said. "Right now, all we have is Valium to give her. A lot of times, that don't work, either."
Jeremy thinks the solution to making his daughter as comfortable as possible in the time she has left of this planet (the life expectancy for children with Battens is 10 to 12 years) lies in a drug illegal in Minnesota - an oil extracted from a type of marijuana called R4 - low in THC (the compound in marijuana that's psychoactive) and high in CBD (which has medicinal properties but no psychoactivity). It's called Charlotte's Web, named after a little girl who before taking the drug suffered from as many as 300 grand mal seizures a week when she was 3 - close to the same age as Katelyn was when her seizures began. Since she's been on the drug, Charlotte, now 6, has two or three episodes a month.
"We were planning on moving to Colorado to see if it works, but we decided to wait to see what happens in Minnesota," said Jeremy, referring to the ongoing medical marijuana debate in Minnesota.
But the family isn't sitting idly by. Jeremy recently spent two-and-a-half hours at the governor's mansion taking with Gov. Mark Dayton about making medical marijuana legal here. He considers that progress but remains frustrated and scared for his daughter.
"He called us in, sat us down; says he supports the pills and capsules but doesn't support the smoking - I could care less about the smoking part of it," Jeremy said. "My daughter needs the oil capsules. It seems like he was compassionate at that point, but he's been going back and forth. I don't know which side of the fence he's on."
The polarizing debate has been contentious in St. Paul. The House and Senate bills that have been introduced would allow people suffering from conditions like cancer, HIV/AIDS, epilepsy and glaucoma to access medical marijuana if recommended by their doctors. Dayton at first stood with law enforcement against legalizing pot but has recently softened his stance. However, Dayton's human and has been influenced by families crying out for the legalization of medical marijuana.
"I've seen more politics in the last eight-and-a-half weeks than I ever wanted to see in my life," said Jeremy, his sense of humor still intact. "We've seen (Dayton) flip-flop on this, but I think the education's not there - he's not educated about what the medication is doing."
Yes, progress has come slowly, but it is there if you look close enough. On Tuesday, a group of more than 100 doctors and clergy throughout the state joined Minnesotans for Compassionate Care to add another chapter to the story by formally expressing support for legal access to medicinal marijuana. And Friday, a Senate panel approved a bipartisan medical marijuana bill. Jeremy, his wife Kristy and Katelyn were there for that, too - it was their eighth trip to the Capitol in the last two months.
The Paulings don't know if Charlotte's Web will be the answer for Katelyn, but they know they have to try it - Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs have done little for Katelyn, and she takes more than a dozen of them. But if medical marijuana isn't legalized here, it could be off to Colorado for the Paulings, which would mean leaving behind their family, their support group. If you ask Jeremy, the state is all but pushing them out if it decides not to recognize marijuana as a legal medical option.
"Charlotte's Web, it actually heals the brain in a way," he said. "Maybe it's a miracle drug."
Miracles do happen. The only question is, will this one happen in Minnesota or Colorado?