Marijuana has a stigma problem. All too many people envision the old hippies Cheech and Chong driving in their flowered Volkswagen bus living the carefree and irresponsible life. For them life was one perpetual high. This was long before THC and CBD defined cannabis as a medical viability for many ailments.
To date, 23 states and the District of Columbia (DC) have legalized some type of medical marijuana use. Others are being pressured to join the group. Unfortunately, the legalization process is a slow and arduous one, with both pro and con factions attacking the issue with equal fervor. Interestingly enough, federal law still prohibits marijuana use, yet DC, the home for the federal government, has legalized some of its use. It seems that every election day a few more states have a legalization amendment on their ballot.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the chief medical correspondent for CNN recently acknowledged his misconception that people using medical marijuana did so for the express purpose of getting stoned, like Cheech and Chong. He has since come to realize that there are many patients for whom cannabis has helped their symptoms when nothing else worked.
Gupta discussed that many marijuana studies are predisposed to finding harm, while ignoring potential positives. The stigma surrounding the topic is a major hindrance and severely limits proper research. He highlighted the case of Charlotte Figi, a severe epileptic only five years old, whose seizures ceased when she was treated with cannabis.
Early in life Charlotte was diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome, a condition that resulted in 300 weekly grand mal seizures. The child was hospitalized a multitude of times and was given medications and prescribed diets, but nothing worked. In fact, the medications were having a negative affect on her young body. After Colorado implemented its medical marijuana law, it was suggested that Charlotte try a high CBD cannabis oil to treat the seizures. While it was difficult to get two doctors to sign off for the treatment, they were ultimately successful. Since the cannabis treatments began, Charlotte has two to three minor seizures a month, mostly in her sleep.
But Charlotte’s story is not an isolated one. Alex is an 11-year-old suffering from Tuberous Sclerosis that caused his seizures and autism. His events were so violent that he would repeatedly hurt himself. The family had also exhausted all mainstream medical options before turning to medical cannabis. As in Charlotte’s case, it worked.
Harvard researchers and McLean Hospital have recently announced a program to study medical marijuana. The study is funded by a $500,000 gift from Patricia Cornwell. Researchers hope to study the impact cannabis has on brain structure and cognitive functions. Cornwell is aware of the shifting national view regarding medical marijuana and wants to lay a scientific groundwork to help formulate policies and decisions.
While the cannabis legalization process is gaining nationwide momentum, Gupta suggested that marijuana, like any other new medication, be allowed scientific testing so that proper uses and thresholds can be established. There are too many positive cases to casually dismiss its benefits.
Cheech and Chong may have actually been on to something. Had they used a product high in CBD instead of THC, cannabis may have been medically approved some time ago. Regardless of one’s beliefs, medical marijuana’s benefits need to be explored and viable policies enacted.
By Hans Benes
Image courtesy of Hammerin Man – License