Wednesday, April 9, 2014
The World Takes Witness to the Crisis of “Medical Refugees”
by Chelsea Shaker
Medical marijuana for children is a debate in itself, set aside from the normal debates of medical marijuana for adults. The positive benefits of medical marijuana for pediatric debilitating conditions, as well as the negatives of the unknown- insufficient legislation allowing for pediatric access to medical marijuana, lawmakers still not passing any medical marijuana legislation, and the stigma of marijuana is not medicine still being felt from medical professionals, is at the forefront of debate as of late. It has been the spotlight issue of CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta, who has recently recinded his opposition of marijuana for medicinal purposes after witnessing the accounts of numerous parents and patients suffering from various forms of severely debilitating conditions, in particular epilepsy. After hearing of medical marijuana treating Dravet Syndrome, a serious form of epilepsy for then-4 year old Charlotte Figi in 2012, Gupta investigated further into the science behind medical marijuana. This included witnessing first-hand the relief of the cannabis oil for Charlotte and meeting with the Stanley Brothers (of Realm of Compassion in Colorado) who provided the seizure-reducing, non-psychoactive strain.
Gupta invited Americans in to the lives of another set of parents who are desperately searching for safe access to cannabis oil in Weed 2: Cannabis Madness. Spotlighting this time New Jersey 2 year old Vivian Wilson, who suffers from severe epileptic seizures as well, and her parents’ struggles to receive a high-CBD strain cannabis oil, Gupta revives the crisis felt across the U.S. from tens of thousands of families, now considered “Medical Refugees” and their efforts to relieve their childrens’ life threatening conditions.
The Wilson’s Journey
Two year-old Vivian Wilson grabbed at the heartstrings of just about every person watching Gupta’s CNN special on March 11th. Viewers witnessed this adorable toddler suffer from up to 70 seizures per day, who is forced to sleep with an oxygen and heart monitor attached to her toe and wear an eye patch due to sunlight exposure inducing severe epileptic seizures. Meghan and Brian Wilson, parents of little Vivian, worked tirelessly to promote Medical Marijuana legislation and pediatric access in their home state of New Jersey, pressing their Governor, Chris Christie, to address the urgent need of the high-CBD marijuana strains for children. The Wilson’s felt they were running out of options for their daughter. Strong anti-seizure medications were prescribed to Vivian since the on-set of her epilepsy, which left her incapacitated and barely able to walk. Brian Wilson and his young daughter left for Denver, Colorado to meet the Stanley brothers of the Realm of Caring, a medical marijuana organization who worked successfully in achieving the Charlotte’s Web strain for Charlotte Figi. Brian took up Colorado residency, sought the medical recommendation of two physicians, and was then approved to try medical marijuana for Vivian’s epilepsy. The Stanley brothers and Vivian’s father began the trial of Charlotte’s Web. Within an hour, Vivian’s seizures were occurring less frequently. The little toddler was even able to play outside in the sun and her motor skills improved enough for her to enjoy a ride on a tricycle, until the reality of her condition was set back in when she suffered yet another traumatic epileptic seizure. The Stanleys and her father continued on with the cannabis oil treatment and much improvement was made over the course of their trial-stay in Colorado.
While filming, the state of New Jersey implemented a strict medical marijuana act and depicted the Wilson’s receiving access to medical marijuana- in the form of high-CBD leaves and trim. Once the Wilson’s access was granted, they realized how limited it was. They were not able to receive the actual cannabis oil, and had to create a recipe at home with a DIY project, unable to have it tested for CBD percentage, unsure if it would actually relieve Vivian’s symptoms. After discussing Vivian’s limited options with her physician, Brian and Meghan Wilson made the decision to move to Colorado full-time to receive the full benefits of the cannabis oil.
Dr. Orrin Devinsky, Vivian’s specialist, is the Director of the NYU’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, who has worked on the first-ever clinical study for cannabis’ effects on epilepsy to be approved by the FDA.
Devinsky niether recommended, nor opposed the use of the cannabis oil for Vivian, but stated, “Do we have proof it works? Absolutely not. Do we have proof it’s safe? Absolutely not. If it was my daughter and I lived in Colorado, and she had failed to respond to all the existing medications, there’s a good chance I would try it.”
Gupta and the World’s Stance
When Sanjay Gupta began his medical marijuana investigation, he was astonished at the amount of successful patient testimonies, clinical research and physician recommendations. When recanting his former opposition of marijuana, he can be memorably quoted as saying,
“I mistakenly believed the Drug Enforcement Agency listed marijuana as a schedule 1 substance because of sound scientific proof. Surely, they must have quality reasoning as to why marijuana is in the category of the most dangerous drugs that have ‘no accepted medicinal use and a high potential for abuse.’ They didn’t have the science to support that claim, and I now know that when it comes to marijuana neither of those things are true.”
With the DEA refusing to acknowledge any medical case studies, testimonies, petitions to reschedule, or anything of the kind, Gupta simply said, “It is wild... It seems (in their case) politics trumps science.”
Gupta also spent some time in his CNN special depicting the clinical efforts behind GW Pharmaceuticals, the only company in the UK allowed access to cannabis for pharmaceutical research and development. Having great success in over 20 European countries with Sativex, a spray-form of Cannabidiol (CBD) used for symptom relief of Multiple Sclerosis, GW Pharmaceuticals is at the forefront for another production of high-CBD strains for Epilepsy with Epidiolex. Recently, the Orphan Drug Designation has been granted approval by the Federal Drug Administration in the treatment of pediatric epilepsy in the form of GW Pharm’s Epidiolex. Other forms of extracted Cannabidiol for Alzheimers disease, lupus, Cancer, and various conditions are being researched by GW Pharmaceuticals. The UK-based Pharmaceutical company, involved in the stock exchange, recently received stock coverage from U.S. big bankers Bank of America, which bought
up GWPH stock at the rate of $93.00. The world IS catching on.
Although Sanjay Gupta’s depiction of the medical marijuana crisis appears to be pro-medical marijuana, he does reassure viewers he is simply offering insight to the political mess of the situation that is access to proper medical marijuana legislation for children. Gupta does, however, agree that the science behind the benefits of cannabis are true and needs better acknowledgment and study, stating, “The science is pretty clear...We don’t know the long-term effects..but this is why we want to study it.”
Are lawmakers catching on?
It seems legislation has taken hold in plenty of states where it once seemed hopeless throughout the U.S. The state of Georgia, for example, recently passed medical marijuana legislation by an astounding 171-4 vote after the initial CNN special aired. Other states: Florida, Utah, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky have introduced CBD-specific medical marijuana legislation, but activists are hesitant to support such specific legislation. The main concern is by limiting medical marijuana to high-CBD strains, it would only allow access to certain patients’ conditions, while leaving others who need access to THC strains as well without the same rights to medical marijuana. The debate continues across the country and the world. The United States is on its’ way to a full-blown revolution of cannabis reform, with proper legislation, support and understanding from lawmakers, patient testimony, and one approved clinical trial at a time.