Becca Williams isn’t a meek cannabis advocate. She doesn’t hide her identity or publish under a pseudonym. Nor is she a daring dabber posting lung-busting party videos to YouTube. Williams, a National Public Radio veteran, has reinvented her career — and life — by dedicating her efforts to producing a series of intelligent videos regarding her favorite topic: Cannabis.
In a career reboot magnific, Williams’ view of cannabis is embodied in her online video show Marijuana Straight Talk. This informative series, for which Williams serves as executive producer and host, is comprised of short, three to five minute episodes and infuses humor and a neighborly, relaxed tone that is reflective of cannabis itself.
Despite her tasteful and sometimes goofy sense of humor, Williams is nothing if not serious about being a catalyst for real change and defying nearly a century of stigma when it comes to this highly medicinal and therapeutic plant. Her show clearly reflects a theme of smart “edutainment.” Williams recently relocated to Denver to better position herself and gain the ability to feature a large number of quality guests and events on her show.
Education and Defying Stigma
Probably the two most significant aspects of Marijuana Straight Talk are its educational value and how it helps break down stigma. Williams herself clearly defies stereotypical images of the stoner culture. This middle-aged neo-hippy, replete with MacBook and her cute Jack Russell terrier, is dripping with sincerity. After only a few episodes, it became abundantly clear that Williams is determined to change the way Americans think about cannabis — be it for lifestyle enhancement or as a medicine. Said Williams:
“We are a very wounded culture around this plant. It’s been misrepresented to us; there’s been a misinformation campaign. We need to educate ourselves around it.”
In 2015, Williams’ charming show achieved a significant milestone in terms of viewers reached. After only two pilot episodes, Marijuana Straight Talk was the second most popular weekly current affairs program on the Free Speech TV network. The big deal? The show, which is slated to begin weekly production in summer of 2016, is distributed by DISH Network and DirecTV, making it available to more than 40 million TV households (and about 100 million people).
With respect to audience size and meaningful impact (number of humans educated), Williams may very well become one of the country’s leading cannabis legalization advocates, with a sharp focus on gently teaching viewers without putting them to sleep. With 10 states considering adult use legalization this year alone, the education of voters is critical if the current wave of legalization is to be sustained. In response to the success of the first couple of pilot episodes of her full-length show, Williams said, “It goes to show how hungry we Americans are for information and education about cannabis.”
This determined advocate’s attitude toward the cannabis plant is embodied in the Values Statement of Marijuana Straight Talk. The first line reads: “We believe in the Cannabis Plant’s extraordinary power to heal body, mind, and spirit — and our natural world.” “Body, mind, and spirit.” It’s an enlightening and holistic framework from which to approach this healing herb and, in the overarching effort of Williams, to recast the plant with an intelligent, science-based, and inclusive culture for the 21st century.
Becca Williams Interview
Gooey Rabinski: When did you first consume cannabis and not simply enjoy it, but realize that it might change your life?
Becca Williams: I fell in love with the creative life, how it amplified my perspective and offered an elevated awareness of my surrounding and others. I think that happened from the get-go, the first time. What’s morphed over the years is my relationship with the Plant and how I interact with her. Early on, it was a very social experience, passing a joint with a group of friends. Or strangers. Who cares…right? For concerts, it was usually about getting as baked as I could and surrendering to the music. It was a great time!
It’s a long story, but when I was about 30, it became clear to me what an emotional mess I was from a really challenging, abusive childhood. As an adult, I was living with lots of trauma and panic at every turn, often paralyzed with fear in settings where I felt I had to make an impression or make others like me. I experienced envy, like feeling others were so much better than me, and had a lot of self-worth issues.
It was at this point that I realized what a balm cannabis was for my nervous system, in scientific terms, and for my “emotional body,” if you wanna go down the spiritual path. It stroked my soul. It continues to do so, even more so. Over the last few years, I’ve become a serious student of marijuana as a plant spirit medicine. She is a powerful ally.
I’m more drawn than ever to communing with the Plant in solitude, going inward. I believe it’s because I’ve done so much personal growth work with her as a guide. Sure, I still love the communal experience. Now, at this point in my life, getting together with others and partaking is much more intentional. What I mean by that is coming together, two or more of us, lifted by the plant in order to explore our deepest selves within a field of trust. That may scare the shit out of some people, but for others it’s where the magic happens.
GR: How has regular cannabis consumption improved your life and career?
BW: I have one word for you: Healing. Cannabis has helped me heal my core wounds that catalyzed all those difficult, heavy emotions plaguing me for so many years. To quote a beloved album, what a long strange trip it’s been. The Plant’s spirit medicine has been vital to my personal evolution.
GR: What do you consider the two biggest problems facing the cannabis legalization movement in the United States?
BW: Ok, I’m gonna answer this not from a place of really being in the know with all the legalization and political machinations, but from my own knowledge. Instead of problems, I think in terms of opportunities that we want to embrace at a macro level, over the long haul.
What do we want? The most important one, the way I see it, is to create and promote a “cannabis economy” that transcends the inevitable march toward making this Plant just another commodity. On our website, we have Marijuana Straight Talk‘s “Values Statement” (what we believe) and if you put all the points together, it’s a recipe for creating culture around this Plant. Two of the stand-outs are “We trust that the Cannabis business world can be a force to serve the greater good” and “We support the sovereign right to embrace the Cannabis Plant in our lives — in the many ways we choose.”
If we, as citizens and business people, focus our intention on what we want — as opposed to what we don’t want — the force will be with us! Ask any Jedi master.
GR: What is the goal of your show Marijuana Straight Talk? What is the direction of the series?
BW: It’s simple. Marijuana Straight Talk‘s assignment is to find and showcase the voices that most effectively articulate the best directions for an emerging cannabis culture. We love stories about regular people being inspired by cannabis’ many facets and how their passions translate to being good stewards of the plant. In the business world, we want to shine a light on conscious business practices within the industry. They are the ones who will be leading the way in supporting quality growing, manufacturing, and fair labor practices, along with fair prices and availability. This is so much fun!
GR: Literally hundreds of communities throughout Oregon, Washington, and Colorado have or are in the process of banning sales of cannabis — even medical sales. How would this scenario change if citizens were more educated?
BW: You know, I don’t think it’s about ignorance actually. I think it’s about the fear that’s velcro-ed to images of…oh, off the top of my head…good for nothins, raids, Reefer Madness, debauchery. Too much of a good thing doesn’t square with our puritanical images of “clean living.” These wounds — from nearly 80 years of our government making the Plant forbidden — cut deep.
Like recovering from the abuse in my childhood, it’s about finding ways to heal our culture and set a course for the future. And the best way to do that is by redefining how we interact with this remarkable Plant. We must encourage and nurture each other to leverage our strengths as citizens to accomplish that.
GR: What does the future hold for Becca Williams?
BW: Dinner and a movie? Oh, you mean long range….
It’s gonna sound way out of left field, but one of my fondest desires would be to join our strengths with others to help support the development of an infrastructure around the growing of hemp. And especially as it relates to creating cooperatives where the employees own and jointly run the business, including the farmers growing the hemp. There are some great examples of this in Europe, like Mondragon in Spain.
I think this would be an excellent start to bringing into the picture all those who suffered so mightily under the jack boot of U.S. law enforcement. Imagine large hemp processing plants that employ people of color and those who emerge from prisons haunted by the stigma of possession charges.
What does media have to do with this? Hell, Marijuana Straight Talk would cover this, as we say in the news business, like red on rash. Somebody starts a project like this, we’ll be all over it. This is a grass-roots economy creation at its best. I wanna shout it from the rooftops. Big Pot, as the New York Times calls it, is going to emerge, for sure. But let’s invite them to a seat at the table in helping to craft this new paradigm. Despite all the naysaying, they may surprise us.
Participants in the cannabis culture may be familiar with a few of the rare varieties of the plant that are categorized as landrace strains, including Colombian Gold, Durban Poison, Northern Lights, and Afghan Kush. “Landrace” simply refers to the small number of surviving strains of cannabis that evolved naturally in the geographic region in which they were initially discovered (by 20th century humans, that is). Some experts believe that about 100 of these rare strains exist today.
Landrace strains hail from global regions such as Jamaica, Afghanistan, India, Africa, Mexico, Pakistan, and Central America. They are believed to have originated in the Hindu Kush region of Pakistan and Afghanistan. This is one reason that so many strain names incorporate the term “Kush,” such as the always-popular OG Kush (the “OG” means “Ocean Grown,” denoting West Coast breeding and cultivation).
Many cultivators believe that the best examples of cannabis sativa are grown in a region as close to the equator as possible and at a relatively high elevation. Thus, mountainous areas in Central America, the Middle East, Africa, and Indonesia are almost perfectly suited to the cultivation of high-quality cannabis. This is no coincidence; landrace strains hail from most of these regions. Technically, landrace strains are those that have stabilized over time as a result of natural inbreeding.
Other definitions of landrace cannabis include any that hasn’t purposefully been bred or otherwise manipulated by humans. Such indigenous varieties of marijuana, because they have evolved within a particular region, are very precisely acclimated to their local climates — and may offer unique medicinal qualities that are specifically tuned to the native humans of that region. Wrote Rick Pfrommer, Director of Education at Harborside Health Center, one of the nation’s largest dispensaries:
“It’s not that [landrace strains are] necessarily better, [they’re] just different, and perhaps more effective for some patients’ specific conditions or needs.”
Source of All Modern Strains
Many readers aren’t interested in a history lesson, however. How are landrace strains related to modern varieties and hybrids? Put simply, landraces are the origin of all modern cannabis strains. They are the genesis of cannabis in society and reflect its state of development, or evolution, before modern humans began breeding and cultivating the herb for medicine, lifestyle enhancement, and profit.
Cannabis breeders long ago took original landrace strains and bred, or crossed, them in an effort to create new strains possessing the best characteristics of both parents (and, just as with dogs or humans, hopefully few of their bad traits). Some strains feature shorter growing periods or are more resistant to pests or mold, making them the desire of cultivators. Others, especially sativa varieties, may be more difficult to grow and feature relatively long flowering cycles, but can also deliver unique medicinal and psychoactive effects that are sought by many patients and cannabis consumers.
For all practical purposes, it must be assumed that many landrace strains, in their original, pure form, have been lost forever. Endless crosses over several decades in most areas of the world, especially North America, the United Kingdom, and Europe, have resulted in diluted genetics. The sad reality is that many “pure” breeds of cannabis are often mislabeled. Many purported examples of seeds, harvested cannabis flowers, or concentrates from pure landrace strains are inevitably not. Instead, they are sometimes the descendents of multiple landraces that have been bred (either purposefully or accidentally), going back an unknown number of generations — and with possibly very different characteristics. Also, genetic mutations easily emerge, especially under different growing conditions, which can cause great stress to mature plants.
For decades, strains have been bred to bring out their potency, especially in terms of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the cannabinoid in the plant that delivers psychoactive effects and is largely responsible for its euphoria — but also is a powerful medicine for dozens of diseases. However, researchers and medical professionals have identified something called the entourage effect that supports the concept of whole flower medicine by observing that cannabinoids and terpenes interact synergistically, in a delicate and nuanced supplementation of the human body’s endocannabinoid system.
The good news is that a significant portion of the cannabis breeding community has been focused on creating strains that deliver the greatest medicinal value. Many modern varieties of cannabis are a far cry from the original strains from which they are descended. Just as a modern human living in Kentucky might be a descendant of American founding father Benjamin Franklin while, in most respects, the two humans are very different, cannabis strain crosses often, in reality, feature a morphology (shape and size), growing characteristics, and high type that is very different from their landrace ancestors. Sometimes, crosses and hybrids are more appropriate and therapeutic than landrace strains for particular diseases or ailments.
Understanding Phenotypes and Heirlooms
When seeds from landrace strains are cultivated outside the zone in which they evolved, they produce what geneticists and breeders label phenotypes. Phenotypes are transmogrifications of the plant that result in similar, but different characteristics. This includes morphology, development (such as the length of flowering cycles), and biochemical properties (potency and cannabinoid/terpene profiles). Phenotypes that are direct descendents of landrace strains, with no breeding or crossbreeding, are known as heirlooms.
In landrace strains grown outside their area of origin, a change occurs in the cannabinoid and terpene profiles of the resinous trichomes found on the female flowers of these heirloom varieties. Because they necessarily receive different light cycles, sometimes artificial light instead of natural, and different soil (not to mention dramatic variances in water, humidity, and nutrition), these strains must modify and adapt to their new environments. This changes the inherent characteristics of these strains, including their medical efficacy and high type.
Because they have evolved over hundreds of thousands or even millions of years, landrace strains are considered to be more “balanced,” with terpene and cannabinoid profiles that are in harmony with the needs of the plant, its environment, and — in theory — the humans and animals living in the region that consumed it. (All mammals have an endocannabinoid system and, therefore, are affected by cannabis in a manner similar to humans.)
Origin of American Cultivation Culture
The cannabis cultivation cultures in Northern California and Hawaii have their genesis in heirloom strains introduced to the United States during the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s. The climate in Northern California sometimes closely approximates that of parts of Afghanistan and the Hindu Kush mountains. Because the central West Coast of the United States is roughly similar in the weather it receives, landrace strains brought back from some regions of Indonesia and the Middle East have traditionally thrived in Northern California. With them, the cannabis culture in the United States has also thrived. Both Hawaii and the entire West Coast have become synonymous with high-quality outdoor grown cannabis — just as Columbia is known for producing some of the world’s best coffee beans.
Patients and lifestyle consumers wishing to expand their cannabis horizons should seek out landrace and heirloom strains in an effort to learn more about the roots of cannabis in not only North America, but throughout the world. Cultivators wanting a change of pace should strive to obtain seeds and clones (cuttings) from heirloom strains in an effort to keep them alive for current and future generations and give patients (and medical professionals, including researchers) additional options for cannabis medicine.
Classic Landrace Strains
In the past, landrace strains that happened to be sativas were eschewed by gardeners for indicas and crosses that featured shorter flowering periods. This was simply because these varieties were more profitable for commercial cultivators. However, the recent wave of recreational and medical cannabis laws at the state level in the U.S. has spawned markets for special strains, many of which are landrace sativas (such as Durban Poison).
Examples of popular and classic landrace strains include the following:
- Afghan Kush: A pure indica strain purported to have originated in the Hindu Kush Mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
- G13: A landrace from Afghanistan that typically leans toward indica. However, two phenotypes of this strain exist, the second of which is a sativa.
- Durban Poison: An unusually potent sativa from the South African port city of Durban. Click here to read an expert review of this strain.
- Acapulco Gold: The infamous landrace sativa that hails from the Acapulco region of Southwest Mexico and typically features high levels of THC.
- Northern Lights: A legendary indica, this highly inbred Afghani is purported to hail from British Columbia.
- Rooibaard: A sativa from the coastal area of the Transkei region of South Africa.
- Colombian Gold: The fabled cannabis hybrid that is sometimes a bit sativa-dom that originates in the Santa Marta mountains of Colombia in Central America.
- Hawaiian: A sativa-dom hybrid from the islands of Hawaii.
- Malawi Gold: A pure sativa is from the Salima region of Malawi in Southeast Africa.
- Thai: A sativa from, as its name implies, Thailand. Hybrids derived from Thai include Fruity Thai and Juicy Fruit Thai.
- Panama Red: This sativa from Panama became popular in the late 1960s, during the hippy psychedelic era.
- Punto Rojo: A sativa from Columbia that is considered by some to be even better than Colombian Gold.
Patients who register with their state’s medical cannabis program typically become, literally, card carrying members. What many do not realize is that some states recognize the registrations of those from outside areas, something that is called reciprocity. While most states do not recognize out-of-state medical cannabis exemptions or qualifications, a few do. Of these, there are important differences of which millions of traveling patients should be aware.
The medical cannabis laws of most states do not allow reciprocity for one simple reason: It invites scrutiny by federal authorities, specifically those in the Drug Enforcement Administration, or DEA. The Justice Department is home to the DEA and exercises oversight for interstate commerce. It therefore has a vested concern to ensure that diversion (legal cannabis being delivered to illegal recipients) and other fraudulent activity is not involved. The issue becomes only more complex based on the fact that medical, and even recreational, cannabis is legal in some states, but all forms of cannabis are illegal at the federal level.
The federal government categorizes cannabis as Schedule I, meaning it is officially as “dangerous and addictive” as heroin and bath salts. In fact, both cocaine and methamphetamines, two truly addictive drugs that nearly any medical professional will testify are more dangerous than cannabis, both reside in less-restrictive Schedule II; they can even be prescribed by a physician.
Possession vs. Purchase
Four states with medical cannabis laws on the books allow visitors to legally possess and consume cannabis (within limits), but do not provide safe access via dispensaries to the medicine or related products (like concentrates, edibles, tinctures, and topicals).
States allowing registered patients from out-of-state to possess cannabis include:
- New Hampshire: Visiting patients are permitted to possess and consume cannabis, but cannot purchase or grow the herb.
- Arizona: Card-carrying patients from other states are permitted to possess and use cannabis, but not purchase it.
- Michigan: Visiting patients may possess and use. If driving with cannabis, the herb must be stored in a case in a locked trunk of the vehicle.
- Rhode Island: Like similar states, visiting qualifying patients may use and possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis, but cannot purchase from dispensaries in the state.
There are three states that practice full reciprocity and will legally allow, under certain circumstances, out-of-state patients to make purchases at licensed dispensaries. This is a way for those suffering a debilitating disease or condition, especially those who must medicate daily, to obtain medicine when they are traveling. It is not recommended that patients attempt to carry cannabis through an airport or on a flight. While many are successful, the legal ramifications in some states — or from federal authorities — simply are not worth the risk for the average patient.
It is legal for any patient possessing a valid medical cannabis card, from any state, to purchase, possess, and consume cannabis products at Nevada dispensaries. In fact, because reciprocity is practiced by so few states in the U.S., Nevada may become a destination for patients in other states who wish to vacation or meet business clients, but don’t desire to — or simply can’t — go without their medicine for the duration of their travel.
In Nevada, reciprocity is fairly straightforward. At their first dispensary visit, patients from out-of-state are asked to sign an affidavit testifying that they are currently a valid patient in another state. In addition, traveling patients are restricted to that initial dispensary for one month. Because most travelers, especially those vacationing in Las Vegas, will be staying a considerably shorter period of time than a month (a two to seven day span is more common), they are limited to a single dispensary for that particular trip. Las Vegas is significant, especially considering that 40 million people travel there each year (that’s the entire population of California, the most populous state in the nation).
Thus, patients visiting Las Vegas or Reno should be careful when selecting their initial dispensary. If their next trip to the Silver State is more than 30 days in the future, they will then be able to shop at the dispensary of their choice. Some have pondered if Nevada will pass recreational legalization via a ballot initiative in November 2016. If it does, Las Vegas could become the Amsterdam of the United States, being America’s legal adult playground for more than merely gambling and big-dollar magic acts.
The fact that Nevada is risking federal scrutiny to do what is best for patients is both relatively novel among states that have enacted medical cannabis laws, but also within the theme of Nevada’s tourism. If there are three states that understand the economic and cultural benefits of a robust tourism industry, it is Nevada, Colorado, and California. This spirit is finally being expressed within state laws affecting medical cannabis patients.
In Hawaii, patients from the mainland must simply register with the state. None of the details of this program are available, however, due to the fact that it will not go into effect until January 1, 2018. Patients traveling to this classic vacation destination of perfect temperatures and gorgeous beaches must remain patient for their opportunity to spend a few days in paradise while also remaining medicated to reduce or eliminate pain and nausea or deliver relief from inflammation-based diseases such as fibromyalgia, arthritis, and even cancer.
Maine requires that the recommending physician of visiting patients submit a form that testifies to the patient’s condition and eligibility in their home state. Visiting patients may designate a caregiver or dispensary in Maine, but not both. Surprisingly — in what seems to be an effort to accommodate those who relocate to Maine, not just visitors or vacationers — patients can have their doctor petition for their right to cultivate up to six mature plants.
Thus, patients who qualify for their home state’s medical cannabis program may visit or move to Maine and immediately request, via their recommending doctor, legal permission to consume and even cultivate cannabis.
Federal legality would eliminate the need for states to practice reciprocity in their recognition of registered medical cannabis patients from fellow states. However, this isn’t something that is on the political horizon in Washington, D.C. and a popular topic in Congress. Until true progress is made on Capitol Hill, patients will have to rely upon the handful of states that officially recognize the programs of those outside their own borders.
Alzheimer disease (also known as Alzheimer’s disease or simply Alzheimers) was discovered in 1906 by Dr. Alois Alzheimer, who diagnosed it following an autopsy on the brain of a person who died of an unknown mental illness.
Alzheimer’s actually begins damaging the brain up to a decade prior to the onset of any form of short-term memory loss. It is this memory loss that is the infamous first symptom of the disease.
Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and plagues about five million Americans. It is a progressive neurodegenerative brain disorder and the most common form of dementia. In fact, it is estimated that Alzheimer disease causes 60 to 70 percent of all cases of dementia. One in three senior citizens will eventually die from this disease or another form of dementia.
2016 Israeli Study
While previous research has already revealed the benefits of cannabis in the treatment of neurological disorders, including Alzheimers and Parkinson’s, a new study confirms previous findings.
In a study published in January 2016, a team from Israel comprised of medical researchers from Tel-Aviv University and Bar-Ilan University, added medical cannabis oil to the treatment regimens of a small group of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s. Researches administered the medical cannabis oil to deliver THC to study participants. The objective of the study was to measure the efficacy and safety of cannabis oil as a supplement to traditional pharmacotherapy for the relief of “behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia.”
Concluded the study:
“Adding medical cannabis oil to Alzheimer’s disease patients’ pharmacotherapy is safe and a promising treatment option.”
This study was conducted to further explore the previously proven background that “Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease (AD).”
Cannabis has also been proven to provide relief from several other symptoms of aging experienced by seniors, including arthritis, chronic pain and loss of appetite. While initial studies are promising, the neuroprotective qualities of the plant should be explored further.
Until such research is permitted in the United States and Congress is willing to remove cannabis from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, similar studies will be lacking in the States. As long as cannabis is legally considered as dangerous and addictive as heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine, patients, caretakers, and physicians will lack the knowledge to apply the best strains of cannabis to a variety of diseases and conditions. Similarly, American cannabis breeders and cultivators will be left to rely upon anecdotal patient testimonies and research conducted outside the borders of the U.S.
With medical laws sweeping the nation, more and more patients are eligible for legal and safe access to cannabis — or at least the right to legally possess and consume it. As of June 2015, 14 states had passed “CBD-only” laws, programs designed to provide safe access to low-THC, high CBD (cannabidiol) cannabis oil for a limited set of diseases. In many states, including Iowa, Missouri, and Oklahoma, the only qualifying condition is epilepsy or debilitating seizures.
CBD-Only Laws Relatively Ineffective
Such laws are primarily motivated by childhood epilepsy and intended to curb the occurrence of seizures. Unfortunately, most are relatively ineffective and more a political stunt to gain reelection than an effort to truly help sick adults and children. Many of these patients gain no benefit from conventional pharmaceutical treatments. Many CBD-only states, however, are providing no safe access to an organic medicine that can easily be extracted into a concentrated form and given to children twice a day.
Often, such limited medical cannabis laws are given the name of a child patient who helped inspire them them or was cited as a reason to support the legislation, such as the Harper Grace Durval bill (Mississippi), the Haleigh’s Hope Act (Georgia), and the Alexis Carey bill (Idaho). Unfortunately, such laws serve a minority of childhood epilepsy sufferers. Current research and anecdotal evidence has revealed that CBD-only oils significantly reduce seizure activity in less than one-third of patients. Thus, seven out of 10 children with severe epileptic conditions like Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome do not gain effective improvement to their condition and a significant decrease in seizures from CBD only.
CBD-only states that limit the herbal extract to only epilepsy also discount the most common condition for which CBD oil is administered: Cancer. By allowing only patients suffering seizures or childhood epileptics to use CBD oil, politicians most intent on re-election discount a sizeable portion of their citizens and millions of sick people when they so tightly limit the scope of their state’s CBD law.
No Access to Medicine
Some experts have observed that a network of dispensaries that provide trained budtenders and sage advice to desperate patients is typically not available in most states that have implemented CBD-only medical cannabis laws. Laws that merely legalize and remove penalties from the possession or consumption of something like CBD oil, but that do nothing to provide safe access to medicine and consulting for patients are of little real help.
Some have opined that current CBD legislation in many states is merely a political ploy to satisfy medical cannabis and patient advocates and put up a roadblock to future legislation that is more comprehensive and less restrictive. In other words, the governors and legislatures of many conservative states have beaten cannabis activists and legalization groups like NORML and MPP (Marijuana Policy Project) to the punch with their own highly diluted, mostly ineffective laws.
Also, programs that cater to a single disease like epilepsy reach a very small portion of the overall patient population. According to the MPP:
“…only two percent of the registered patients in both Rhode Island and Colorado report seizures as their qualifying conditions.”
This reveals that CBD-only laws sometimes provide safe access to very few patients. Unfortunately, MPP reported that “The vast majority of [all medical cannabis] patients have symptoms that benefit from strains of marijuana that include more than trace amounts of THC.”
Critics and Lip Service
Vocal critics of CBD-only legislation include Paul Armentano, the Deputy Director of NORML. Armentano has called such laws “largely unworkable” and believes that this is due to the tight restrictions they place on doctors and patients. For example, Tennessee, Utah, and Florida provide access to CBD oil not via dispensaries and retail outlets like those in Portland, Seattle, Denver, and Los Angeles, but instead limit qualified patients to those participating in a special FDA clinical trial.
This obviously greatly limits participation and access, delivering help to very few actual patients after the hype of national press releases and photo opps has passed. In addition, patients in such states are shown no respect in terms of their desire or right to choose their own variety and brand of cannabis medicine from the retail outlet of their choice. Such limited access results in programs that are more lip service than actual help for millions of patients, their caregivers, and their families. In essence, many such programs are a monumental societal-level taunt, inviting very sick patients and desperate parents to participate in programs with very little actual effectiveness.
Patients are increasingly seeking high-CBD varieties of cannabis for treatment of many diseases and conditions, most notably cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, pain, and anxiety. There is also evidence that adult seizure patients, especially females, have a greater need for THC than other sufferers. Even if most states were actually providing safe, reliable access to high-quality, laboratory tested CBD oil containing no THC, the latest research indicates that such a limited approach that disregards the benefits of whole plant therapy helps few children — and actually increased seizure activity for some.
One study published in 2014 and conducted by Dr. Kevin Chapman involved 58 children, with an average age of seven, with “catastrophic forms of epilepsy.” It found that less than 30 percent of children treated with CBD-only oil containing very little or no THC experienced a reduction in seizures of 50 percent or greater. When THC is added to the mix, the majority of patients begin to experience a reduction in seizure activity. It is also estimated that many patients who gain marginal or even good efficacy from CBD-only oil would experience even greater therapeutic benefits if their medicine also contained some THC, even in small amounts or maybe at a 1:1 ratio with CBD.
A 2015 CBD Patient Survey conducted by Care by Design surveyed 2,495 patients between March and August of 2015. One of the survey’s key findings was the fact that CBD oils lacking THC are not as therapeutic or effective as those containing between 20 and 35 percent THC. Concluded the survey:
“THC matters. A higher ratio of CBD to THC does not result in better therapeutic outcomes. Patients using the 4:1 CBD-to-THC were the most likely to report a reduction in pain or discomfort….”
The survey goes on to note that patients who use an oil featuring a 2:1 CBD-to-THC ratio reported “the greatest improvement in overall wellbeing.” This confirms other research that has discovered that CBD and THC interact synergistically to enhance the therapeutic effect of the other, an example of the entourage effect.
Anecdotal Patient Testimonies
Many desperate parents of children with epilepsy have experimented with CBD oil. Unfortunately — as research has indicated — for the majority of them, oils high in CBD, but low in THC, do not work best for their children. Jason David has been treating his seven-year-old son, Jayden, an epilepsy sufferer with Dravet syndrome, with medical cannabis in one form or another since 2011. Dravet is one of the worst manifestations of epilepsy and does not respond to conventional treatments. Said David:
“I wish Charlotte’s Web [a CBD-only oil from Colorado] worked for all epileptic kids, but it doesn’t. The worst seizures Jayden ever had on medical cannabis was while we were using Charlotte’s Web.”
Brian Wilson, a former East Coast resident, moved to Colorado in 2014 because of its medical cannabis law. He is another parent of a child suffering from Dravet syndrome. In an interview with Ladybud in 2014, Wilson said:
“CBD is a very important part of the mix, but only part. We saw minor seizure control and developmental progress with CBD alone, but we didn’t see real seizure control until we added measurable levels of THC to the mix.”
Wilson also noted that the acidic precursor to THC, THC-A, provides significant therapeutic value to some patients. “This is highly individualized medicine. There is no magic bullet,” he added.
Some medical cannabis advocates believe that vague CBD-only bills “betray the science behind cannabis medicine.” Patients are finding that CBD, without any THC, is simply not effective or is marginally effect, when clearly superior solutions exist. In fact, several cases like that of Jason David and his son Jayden have been reported in which CBD only increased seizure disorders, often during times of illness, stress, or hormonal change.
More Research Necessary
Unfortunately, until cannabis is removed from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act of the federal government — which considers it as dangerous and addictive as heroin and bath salts — human trials and detailed research will fail to occur in the United States. Even cocaine and methamphetamine, truly addictive and dangerous drugs, are categorized as Schedule II and can be prescribed by a doctor.
Until Congress commits to comprehensive research into the medical efficacy of cannabis for a wide variety of diseases and ailments, tens of millions of patients throughout the country will needlessly suffer. More must be understood about the delicate and nuanced interplay of cannabinoids and terpenes and how they benefit patients with a variety of conditions. Until this happens, a naturally occurring herb that could be helping a sizable portion of the patient population will continue to be outlawed, denying the sick safe access to a 10,000-year-old organic medicine.