They have been called the Robin Hoods of marijuana. Six brothers who own one of the largest marijuana dispensaries in Colorado have developed strains that are being used to treat ailments such as seizures, cancer, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.
Marijuana is the dark horse. It waited through “Reefer Madness,” President Richard Nixon’s agenda to demonize pot, and the dancing, free-loving hippies of Woodstock. It has emerged as part of normal debate.
As we’re having serious conversations on the medicinal use of the plant, marijuana is undergoing somewhat of a reputation makeover. A majority of Americans support marijuana legalization, and these numbers increase annually. While we debate recreational use, we cannot debate the benefit of this drug for Charlotte Figi.
By age 3, Charlotte was having 300 seizures a week as a result of Dravet Syndrome. Countless doctors, medications and dietary changes provided Charlotte only temporary relief and were usually accompanied by horrendous side effects. Charlotte was deteriorating physically and cognitively, and all medical interventions had been exhausted. Her parents were desperate. The Stanley brothers ventured into unchartered territory to develop a safe, natural cannabis remedy to ease Charlotte’s suffering.
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Veterans also suffer. According to a 2014 report by the RAND Corporation’s Center for Military Health Policy Research, about 300,000 of the 1.64 million service members who deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan as of October 2007 were suffering post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression. Only about half had sought treatment in the previous year, and of those who did, just over half received a “minimally adequate treatment.”
With many veterans killing themselves each year, advocates argue that if marijuana can help reduce the death toll, there’s not a minute to lose. New Mexico psychiatrist George Greer conducted a study of 80 veterans suffering from PTSD using cannabis. He found that on average, patients using it reported a 75 percent reduction in several of the main symptoms of PTSD, including hyper-arousal and re-experiencing traumatic episodes.
The first Food and Drug Administration-approved, randomized controlled trial on cannabis and PTSD is set to begin soon. Many think the study will spur increased acceptance of veterans using marijuana. Can we consider marijuana as a potential remedy, versus simply a vice?
Can the federal government remove marijuana from Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substance Act so that proper funding can be granted for randomized, controlled studies? Can we consider that those who suffer from debilitating ailments are entitled to appropriate treatment and can actually be helped by medical marijuana?
Within a week of being given cannabis oil, Charlotte Figi’s seizures decreased from 300 a week to only a handful. Scientists believe that the cannabidiol (CBD) in marijuana, which has medicinal properties but no psychoactivity, quiets the excessive electrical and chemical activity in the brain that causes seizures.
Charlotte is walking, talking, and riding her bike, despite having previously been incoherent and occasionally comatose. Her doctors, parents and the Stanley brothers find her improvement nothing short of miraculous.
Through their nonprofit foundation, Realm of Caring, the Stanley brothers are devoted to ensuring that those with debilitating illnesses have access to one of the few things that have helped them manage their symptoms: cannabis.
Charlotte’s recovery urges us to be aware of one thing: all dark horses eventually demand to be noticed.
Diane Bigler is a licensed clinical social worker and adjunct professor. She lives in Platte City. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.