When a judge awarded Mark and Christy Zartler guardianship over their 18-year daughter, Kara, the coupled breathed a sigh of relief. Kara has cerebral palsy and autism, and is unable to care for herself. Without her parents guardianship, she would have become a ward of the state.
"Since we have a CPS history with illegal drugs related to Kara," explained Mark Zartler. "It's a glaring red flag that on face value doesn't look very good, so we had some explaining to do."
Zartler said someone reported him to Child Protective Services last year after he gained attention posting videos of his daughter punching herself, and showed how cannabis vapor treatments helped to calm her violent outbursts. Zartler now has a CPS file for alleged child abuse.
"The irony of that is we're doing this so she stops hitting herself," explained Zartler.
For most families with children like Kara, guardianship is a formality. For the Zartlers, it was far from a given.
"It does set a precedent for any other families who are eager to be guardians of their special needs child," said Christy Zartler. The couple's attorney, Rick O'Connor told NBC 5, while it doesn't necessarily set legal precedent, every case like theirs helps those who follow.
Texas has limited use of medical marijuana, a specific kind of cannabis oil, that can be used only to treat rare, severe cases of epilepsy. Kara Zartler's condition does not fall under the legal guidelines. Mark Zartler said he broke the law to help his daughter, and in term, others like her.
On March 1, Judge Brenda Hull Thompson ruled the Zartlers were qualified guardians and awarded them guardianship over their daughter.
"So that's a pretty big win in the sense of having support from our elected officials," said Mark Zartler "Sometimes that's hard to come by in Texas.
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