The Zartlers hope Senate Bill 269 will pass in the state Legislature; it would change the medical marijuana law, so they'd no longer have to break it.
The video shows Kara screaming as she's strapped in a car seat. Then she’s in a living room rocking chair, rhythmically hitting herself with both fists on each side of her head.
Doctors say it's how she responds to pain, likely from cerebral palsy.
It's hard to know. It's also hard to watch.
In the video, Mark Zartler puts a mask to Kara's face and squeezes cannabis vapor from a plastic bag he's filled. About three minutes later, Kara is calmer. She still rocks and grunts. But the episode is over, her mom says.
"It's lessened. It doesn't completely stop it," Christy Zartler says. "But it slows her down. It slows her mind and her brain down to where she's just more focused and aware."
The Zartlers first took a chance on marijuana 10 years ago. They were going to the beach. For Kara, the car can be a screaming, biting nightmare. Then Mark Zartler remembered a neighbor who had given them a marijuana brownie for Kara, hoping it might help.
"In the car, there's not really a way to get control of her arms because she'll bite," he explains. "She loves the beach but it's hard to get to the beach. We were like, ‘well, why don't we give her a little bit of brownie before we [have a] high-stress day, and we'll see how it works out?’ And it worked out great."
Cindy Roacha is Kara's caregiver.
"It's like a miracle," she says. "I noticed that her parents would try everything. And she always had the issue where she would always hit herself for hours and hours. But once they experimented with different types of medicines, we noticed that this was the most effective."
‘Being the water for the fire’
It's probably because of the THC in marijuana, Christian Bogner says. The Michigan doctor, who also has an autistic child, has researched cannabis for years. He says it helps reduce inflammation of the brain in some with autism.
"I would think of it more like it being the water for the fire,” Bogner says. “Now, imagine the autistic patient to have a headache with hallucinations and horrible emotions. This is the result of a complete dysregulation of neurotransmitters [that happens in their brains]. And we know that cannabis can help regulate these neurotransmitter dysregulations."
Research backing Bogner has been limited. Because cannabis is an FDA Schedule I drug, like heroin or LSD, it's hard to study, legally. By comparison, there's more research on Schedule II drugs, such as cocaine, opium or fentanyl.