Cannabis is emerging from the shadow of prohibition, and there are many factors that are contributing to this recent wave of legalization. States are increasingly adopting new laws that acknowledge the effectiveness of cannabis as both a medicine, and a taxable commodity that could boost struggling state economies. However, the most recognizable shift is based on one specific component that is forcing our society to reconsider our perception of cannabis, and this tiny cannabinoid is known as CBD (cannabidiol). In just over a year, the governors of fifteen states have signed laws that call for increased research and availability of medical treatment options that are based on CBD. This major shift is focused on the social pressure to recognize anecdotal evidence from the parents of children who experience seizures associated with debilitating disorders like Dravet’s Syndrome. The United States government now must reevaluate the long-held position that cannabis provides absolutely no medical benefit, as parents migrate their families to the increasing number of regions that support medical cannabis. Smoke Reports believes that it is important for the community to follow this phenomenon closely, as the conversation driving this shift holds the keys to a complete social review of cannabis.
CBD is Making States Turn Over a New Leaf
There has been a substantial wave of support for laws supporting CBD-based treatment options. Since the end of March in 2014, fifteen states have adopted legislation that supports increased research and availability of CBD medication. Note that these fifteen states typically vote very conservatively when it comes to social issues, which shows how powerful the cannabis conversation has become. Here is a timeline of CBD-only legislation laws signed in the last 15 months:
- Utah (3/25/14)
- Alabama (4/1/14)
- Kentucky (4/11/14)
- Wisconsin (4/16/14)
- Mississippi (4/17/14)
- Tennessee (5/16/14)
- South Carolina (5/28/14)
- Iowa (5/30/14)
- Florida (6/16/14)
- North Carolina (7/3/14)
- Missouri (7/18/14)
- Virginia (2/26/15)
- Georgia (4/16/15)
- Oklahoma (4/30/15)
- Texas (6/1/15)
Almost all of the states focus their laws on CBD medication specifically for children suffering from constant seizures, however some states such as Florida opened their medical programs to support other medical issues such as cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and PTSD. Many of the states even named their initiatives after a local child championing the push for legalization. It is harder for politicians to oppose a bill dedicated to helping a very young child in immense discomfort. All of the states provided certain legal protections for families obtaining CBD oil, however, not every state listed has legalized the production of cannabis oil, which means some families still must travel to surrounding regions to find the medicine for their children.
The Families Behind the CBD Movement
There are several families around the nation that have championed the social push to make non-psychoactive cannabis treatment available, especially for children. The mounting anecdotal evidence provided by parents of sick children is forcing state legislatures to consider cannabis as having some sort of medical benefit (contrary to the federal classification that cannabis has no medical benefit in any situation). While there are many families seeking alternative treatments for their children through cannabis, a handful have taken it upon themselves to publicly address the risks and sacrifices that they have endured as parents trying to alleviate their child’s pain with CBD.
Carly Chandler, a four-year-old girl from the Birmingham, Alabama region, has a rare genetic disorder (CDKL5) that inflicts daily seizures. Under Carly’s Law, the University of Alabama at Birmingham is conducting a study with permission to treat up to 50 adults and 50 children, a major win for a traditionally conservative state.
Harper Grace Durval is a two-year-old from Mississippi with Dravet Syndrome, a form of epilepsy. Harper Grace was under treatment that required five medications, taken twice a day. The Mississippi law, passed in April of 2014, calls for specific research on the effectiveness of CBD at Ole Miss.
Haleigh Cox is a four-year-old girl from Georgia suffering from severe seizures. Her parents moved her from Georgia to Colorado, after hearing about the success of other families, but being unable to acquire any cannabis medicine in their home state. Haleigh has made so much progress since arriving in Colorado that it has forced Georgia to pass a law to make CBD treatments available, so that future families are not forced to migrate in order to save their child’s life.
Jayden David, a young boy from Tracy, California, was experiencing violent seizures that kept him from talking, eating solid food, and just about everything else a young six-year-old should be happily doing. In June of 2011, Jayden’s father gave him cannabis oil in a final attempt to provide the young boy with relief. The seizures almost immediately disappeared, and for the last few years Jayden has been able to reduce the number of pharmaceuticals he needs to be healthy. Jayden’s father, Jason David, gives one of the most clear accounts as to why cannabis treatment needs to be available, especially for young children suffering in extreme pain. Mr. David will tell you that the risk of providing his child with cannabis has been far outweighed by the obvious relief that Jayden now receives from cannabis, and that for the first time, Jayden gets to live as a young boy, and no longer be addicted to the pharmaceutical drugs (benzodiazepines, and a myriad of other narcotics) that doctor’s prescribe for traditional treatment. Jayden is yet another example of the research needed so that doctor’s nationwide can confidently prescribe cannabis over the dangerous, and sometimes deadly, narcotics.
Charlotte Figi is a celebrity when it comes to cannabis treatment for children. In 2007, at the tender age of three months, Charlotte had her first seizure. Doctors were unable to identify the cause, and sent the Figi family home. Charlotte’s seizures continued, and worsened. Charlotte’s parents searched the internet for possible treatments, and came across information that other children with Dravet’s were finding relief with cannabis oil. This was before Colorado voted for legalized cannabis, so the Figi’s needed a doctor’s medical recommendation to be able to give Charlotte cannabis medicine. Because childhood is such a sensitive time for brain development, the Figi’s struggled to find a doctor that would approve of young Charlotte being exposed to cannabis. After struggling to find a doctor to approve of Charlotte’s experimental use of cannabis to treat her seizures, the Figi’s lucked out and received their recommendation. Now the issue was obtaining low-THC, high-CBD cannabis oil for Charlotte, particularly because strains with this non-psychoactive ratio of cannabinoids were nearly impossible to find. The Stanley brothers ended up saving the day, and developed a stabilized high-CBD strain that they dubbed “Charlotte’s Web.” The Stanley brothers continue to produce this high-CBD variety for Colorado families and their sick kids. Charlotte Figi was referenced by Florida’s Governor Rick Scott when he signed their pro-CBD law, and the Charlotte’s Web strain is also the inspiration behind federal bill H.R. 1635, referred to as “Charlotte’s Web Medical Access Act of 2015,” with the purpose “to amend the Controlled Substances Act to exclude cannabidiol and cannabidiol-rich plants from the definition of marihuana, and for other purposes.” This is the first major instance in which the federal government has contemplated a redefinition of “marijuana” to encompass the many different components of the cannabis plant.
Future Cannabis Research Required
Cannabis appears to be helping children who were suffering under traditional treatment methods. Until recently, there has been an institutional lack of funded cannabis research, which keeps many doctors from prescribing cannabis in any form. Many people against cannabis point to the fact that the long terms effects of CBD on children have not been thoroughly studied. Parents of these afflicted children agree, there is not enough research to help improve the safety of cannabis medicine for their kids. These parents will also point out that their children were truly addicted to powerful pharmaceuticals before they tried cannabis, and that they would gladly support any research that may alleviate the pain and suffering of children in the future. Thank goodness that politicians across the country had enough empathy to hear these pleas. Almost every one of these new CBD laws calls for state-funded research performed at state universities, which marks a turning point in the future of a reasonable cannabis policy in the United States.