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Parents Combat Controversial Cannabis Laws when Caring for Their Sick Children

An Interview with the Director of Weediatrics

Many of us find ourselves within the exotic, exhilarating, sometimes maddening, but always rewarding cannabis industry for distinct reasons. For some, of course, it’s the money. For others, it’s the science, as the cannabis plant and its product offspring provide a bounty of paralleled mystique and molecular treasure.

And then, there are those people who have turned to cannabis for medicinal reasons, either for themselves or someone under their care. The plant provides hope where none previously existed. Anyone who has experienced or witnessed suffering knows hope can be medicinal itself.

Usually, conversations regarding cannabis and children involve whether marketing of products like infused candy targets children. Ironically, some people believe pharmaceutical companies are guilty of these methods through the aggressive diagnosing of conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). While many kids may need help or guidance in the form of a prescription drug, the sales and marketing techniques reflect a business-centered motivation; the more patients, the greater the profit.

Hypocrisy, though, will inevitably be overcome by science, or logic, or compassion. Research has shown that anatomically, some children require cannabis to function. I spoke with John Ehrhard, director of a poignant documentary called Weediatrics, which chronicles the journeys of several families, as their parents “break the law” to get their children a plant that is more efficacious for them than any pharmaceutical synthesized in a lab.

I wanted to know what this film expresses about freedom, or living in a free country, when you cannot do whatever’s necessary to help your child?

“Ironic, right?”, John said. “We actually see a lot of ironies in this film—in addition to hypocrisy. One of the most essential roles of the government and federal laws is to protect our freedoms. However, the freedom to treat our children in an organic and natural way when there are NO OTHER OPTIONS could put you in prison.”

The film documents this by recording the deflating interactions between parents and the police.

It’s irrational that parents actually face penalties when doing whatever it takes to protect their children. But the laws as is, are not rational. The penalties can range from child abuse charges to medical neglect, and even time behind bars. Again, all because a parent sourced a plant for their child.

“Even in states that have medical cannabis programs,” John commented, “we’ve seen too many cases where the parents are investigated or arrested because they chose to administer medical cannabis to their sick child instead of a pharmaceutical drug. It’s a medical crime to deny any parent access to this treatment, yet in the eyes of the law, it’s the parents who are committing the breaking the law.”

The film isn’t about villainizing the government, however.

“We’re trying to point out how ridiculous and counter-productive the current laws are,” John explained. “Especially when the drugs that are destroying the most lives, families and communities are opioids—which we all know are legal with a prescription from a doctor.”

Parents must come to terms with making some tough decisions. Do I violate the law, however archaic, however hypocritical, to provide my child with something that provides happiness and healing?

“The biggest challenge is how CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) have been marketed and branded for lack of better words,” John added. “CBD is good, THC is the stuff that gets you stoned. So, whatever you do, don’t give your kid THC. That’s not necessarily how it works.”

I asked the filmmakers their opinion regarding how a parent can navigate through the hypocrisy when trying to provide their child with a better quality of life? For example, how is Epidiolex® okay by the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA), but not a similar product, or one containing other beneficent molecules?

“We really hope this film sheds some light on that hypocrisy,” John said, “because navigating an antiquated health system and non-sensical laws really shouldn’t be an added burden to parents whose personal burdens would be too much for most of us to bear.”

“We have said from the beginning that we didn’t set out to make a “pro-cannabis” film,” John continued. “We like to think of it as a pro-health, pro-common sense, pro-medical freedom film. Scientifically, we are unclear how Epidiolex is okay but not similar products. We have a hunch it’s something to do with the profit discrepancy between the pharma version of cannabis which is produced and sold versus people who want to use a medicinal plant they can grow in a backyard.”

Our conversation migrated to the entourage or ensemble effect. [1,2] This concept isn’t a fantasy; it’s being proven by researchers each day. In a recent Extraction Magazine webinar, data was shown by GB Sciences that specifically identified synergy between cannabinoids, cannabinoids and terpenes, and even between terpenes themselves.

“Thanks to this synergy,” John added, “whole-plant cannabis products can produce greater benefits than isolated THC or CBD. This is especially true for kids who are on the Autism Spectrum. Not only does CBD alone not really work, sometimes it can make their behavior worse.”

“In addition to the legal restrictions of THC,” John continued, “there are social stigmas as well. If you were at a cocktail party and mentioned you used CBD oil on your arthritic joints, but then mentioned the oil you give your 7th grader is a well-thought out ratio of CBD and THC, the reactions you get to each of those revelations would be completely different—and depending on the company at the cocktail party, the THC declaration may not get an invitation back.”

The medical attributes that cannabis imparts to sick children lack something quite common with pharmaceuticals — side effects, which, according to John, can cause reactions including “vegetable-like behavior, early puberty, and unpredictable emotional swings”.

“Medical cannabis has not only been a way to stop a seizure as it’s happening, but regular use has shown it prevents the seizures from happening all together,” John said. “Parents have seen dramatic improvements in self-injury, behavior, and temper. In many cases, children have become more verbal, socially interactive, and maintain better sleep habits.”

One woman in the film said “deep down in her heart” she felt cannabis would help, a sentiment shared by many others. While I wonder sometimes if we have ancestral knowledge or a genetic memory of cannabis deep in our minds and within our genes, many of these parents were faced with their last-ditch effort out of desperation.

“That desperation often leads to education,” John added. “Like Dr. Temple in the documentary pointed out, our bodies have a naturally occurring endocannabinoid system and cannabis works for a variety of ailments because it enhances the functioning of that system. Parents hear about the science behind medical cannabis and it gives them hope.”

While cannabis science offers optimism to those in grave need, there are still restrictions regarding a university’s ability to conduct legitimate and urgently needed research. What’s more egregious is the endocannabinoid system (ECS) hasn’t been traditionally taught in medical schools, when the ECS provides balance or homeostasis, and imbalances in the ECS are thought to be involved in conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder, fibromyalgia, migraines, and depression. [3,4] How can Reefer Madness go so deep as to eliminate the largest neurotransmitter system in our bodies from the medical books?

“According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, only 9% of medical schools educate their students about medical cannabis,” John commented. “Reefer Madness was mandated by law out of the fear of the unknown that existed at the time. Federal law decrees that cannabis has no medical benefit and puts up roadblocks to research that would prove otherwise.”

“If the institutionally accepted science was there,” John continued, “medical school curricula would follow. It’s not enough for public perception to change. That public perception must be translated into action at the polls. Elect officials who will remove cannabis from the list of Schedule I substances, so physicians are actually equipped to ‘do no harm’.”

So, there’s the hypocrisy pill to swallow since the government holds a patent on cannabinoids as neuroprotectants yet tells its constituents there’s no medicinal value. Medical doctors aren’t taught a key element of human physiology, significantly limiting their understanding of how to impart balance within us. And, then, there’s the fact that the FDA has recognized the medicinal properties of synthetic THC. Synthetic THC is acceptable, but not plant-derived THC?

“Two words,” John replied. “Big Pharma. Two more words, power and money. It’s unconscionable that our government not only restricts using cannabis but prohibits research that can advance our knowledge of this critical, natural substance.”

The filmmakers offer the following advice to parents interested in finding out more:

“Parents in states with legalized cannabis and where it’s still prohibited are both in very real danger if they choose to treat their children with medical cannabis. They need to know they can be charged with severe medical neglect and lose custody of their children, even if there’s a dispensary down the street.”

“One father in Weediatrics risks ten years to life in prison for possession of his daughter’s very effective cerebral palsy and autism medication. Our advice is to get educated on the laws and the effectiveness of medical cannabis. Know what’s on the line. Whatever choice parents make, one course of action is clear: get active and change the laws that are putting both children and parents in unnecessary danger.”

Weediatrics will be on streaming platforms in 2020. The movie is currently being submitted to film festivals throughout North America. You can get updates at Weediatrics.com. Click “How to Watch.”

References

  1. Russo, E. “Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects,” British Journal of Pharmacology, volume 163(7), 2013, p. 1344-1364. [journal impact factor = 6.583; cited by 436 (ResearchGate)]
  2. Marcu, J. et al. “Cannabidiol enhances the inhibitory effects of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol on human glioblastoma cell proliferation and survival,” Mol Cancer Ther., volume 9(1), 2010, p. 180–189. [journal impact factor = 4.856; cited by 69 (ResearchGate)]
  3. Russo, E. “Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency Reconsidered: Current Research Supports the Theory in Migraine, Fibromyalgia, Irritable Bowel, and Other Treatment-Resistant Syndromes,” Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, volume 1.1, 2016, open access. [journal impact factor = N/A; cited by 29 (ResearchGate)]
  4. Micale, V. et al. “Role of the Endocannabinoid System in Depression: from Preclinical to Clinical Evidence,” in Cannabinoids and Modulation of Emotion, Memory, and Motivation, Campolongo, P., Fattore, L. (eds.), Springer Science + Business Media, New York, 2015.

About the author

Jason S. Lupoi, Ph.D.

Jason S. Lupoi, Ph.D.

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