They don’t yet have the empirical evidence that doctors and policy makers want, but these parents have all the proof they need that medical marijuana works.
They live throughout the United States. They come from different religious and political backgrounds. But they all have one thing in common: Their children suffer from severe epilepsy, and they’re looking to cannabis as a life-saver.
Some of these parents have formed political groups to pressure their states’ leaders to act. Others have moved their children from state to state, or even across the country, to find a place where the needed treatment is legal and available.
According to The Salt Lake Tribune, doctors in Colorado, where pot is legal, are seeing a wave of child patients from Utah, where it is not. Many of the children suffer from Dravet syndrome and other seizure disorders.
“This is just the first wave,” said Margaret Gedde, a physician in Colorado Springs. “These families are going to keep coming as awareness spreads because the results are real.”
The drug these families are looking for has nothing to do with getting high, but everything to do with getting well. It’s high in CBD, a chemical in marijuana believed to quiet electrical activity in the brain, and very low in THC, the psychoactive chemical that gets users stoned.
CBD is thought to reduce seizure activity. Stories of afflicted children, treated with marijuana oil high in CBD, whose constant seizures then all but disappeared, have appeared in the news with increasing frequency.
CNN broadcast a story earlier this year featuring a young girl named Charlotte whose seizures dropped from 300 a week to two or three a month within days of treatment with marijuana oil. The nonprofit that provided her with the special strain named it after her: Charlotte’s Web. It treats dozens of other patients.
In August, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie reversed course and agreed to let children use medical marijuana. The decision followed an intense lobbying effort by parents of a child with a seizure disorder.
And in Utah, mothers of children with epilepsy are working with state lawmakers to find a way to import cannabis extract into the state. But the biggest leap some parents are making is the move across state lines.
Colorado has been a particular draw for parents, especially those from neighboring states. Charlotte’s Web is widely considered the best strain for treating severe childhood epilepsy, and the brothers who grow and sell it there have made it a mission to make sure needy children get it.
That job will likely get more difficult as more parents discover this treatment for their desperate children. Gedde, the doctor, said nine of her 12 child patients had seen their seizures drop by 90 to 100 percent. One hadn’t been taking the oil long enough to see results, while the parents of another weren’t sure what affect the drug had had. The final child had a 50 percent reduction in seizures.
“It’s absolutely remarkable,” Gedde said.