Young medical marijuana patient loses life-long battle with cancer

Redding, CA – Spencer Koptis was your typical 15-month-old child. He loved running and playing with his older brothers, and was a cheerful child.

He was a happy, loving child until he was diagnosed pilocytic, Pilomyxoid astrocytoma a form of inoperable brain cancer.

Without ever giving up hope, the family sought out the best treatment options to see if they could battle the disease.

Suzetta Vonzell, Spencer’s mother, became wary of the original chemotherapy treatments. After nearly three months of treatments, MRIs showed the tumors had not grown in size, but Spencer’s condition still wasn’t improving.

“It was almost like watching him die in my arms, and I knew then I would never do another drop of chemotherapy for my kid,” Vonzell said in an interview. “I decided that if I wasn’t going to do chemo then I was going to have to do whatever I could.”

Vonzell began to look at alternative treatments such as cannabis. What she found, was nothing short of amazing.

“Within two weeks he could sit up on his own, he could scoot himself around again and within a month he could start using his hands (again), and his speech took off,” she said. “Literally, I went into the neurosurgeon’s office and he said the tumor in the pineal region was pretty much gone — and it was a big tumor.”

According to, other smaller tumors along his spine showed signs of regression as well, and Spencer continued to regain the use of his arms, speak more clearly and make other advances in the following months.

But all of this hope and progress would soon come to an end; thanks to the state’s immoral war on drugs.

Vonzell was receiving donated medical cannabis from medical marijuana grower, James Benno. Benno was experimenting with different strains to find which ones showed the most potential and donating the medicine to the family. They were dialing in Spencer’s treatment and it was really showing promise.

In May of 2014, however, Benno’s medical grow operation was raided by state agents.

All of Benno’s plants were confiscated, and he and his two son’s were arrested.

Vonzell found it increasingly difficult to find medicine for her son, and they were forced to resort to the pharmaceutical route again. The steroid injections being administered to Spencer quickly took their toll. The cancer returned and several months after showing improvement, Spencer’s health quickly deteriorated.

Days after celebrating his last Easter, Spencer Koptis died.

One will never know if with continued use of medical marijuana, would Spencer be a once again, thriving child.

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