Washington D.C (TFC) – The movement to legalize medical cannabis is not rooted in the excuse to get high; millions of Americans are hoping and dreaming that the federal medical cannabis bill, introduced in March, is the first step to end the madness, and get sick Americans the medicine they need.
For the first seven years of Haley Smith’s life, her parents Lisa and Bobby had no idea what was ailing her. Haley started to have seizures at five months old, confusing and scaring her parents. When diagnosed with Dravet’s Syndrome, Haley’s condition got worse, and her mom sprung into action.
After extensive research, Smith took her daughter to the Virginia State Capitol to push legislators to consider a proposal to legalize medical cannabis. Her daughter has had thousands of seizures throughout her lifetime, and no medicine has worked. Flanked by other parents with sick children, Smith attempted to hit the podium, then her child had a seizure in front of lawmakers who claim the medicine is not there to legalize medical cannabis for a child, who is stricken by multiple seizures per day, getting robbed of any sort of normal life.
Smith’s activism is personal; she wants her daughter to feel safe, and what she continues to do has been done by numerous parents, like Tracy Ryan, who has used her daughter’s sickness as a template to fight for the health of America’s children.
When Sophie Ryan was just eight-months-old she was diagnosed with Optic Pathway Glioma an inoperable brain tumor in which doctors gave the child little hope. There was no guarantee that chemotherapy could shrink or eliminate the tumor, and she was bound to become blind. In desperation her mom Tracy Ryan started to research the medical qualities of cannabis. She connected with Ricki Lake and Abby Ebstein, (producers of Weed The People) to share her story. Despite the trauma around her daughter’s sickness, Ryan feels a bit lucky to be a witness to a new type of discussion around cannabis; one where more and more Americans believe that it can be used as medicine.
“The timing has played a huge role in the amount of experts we’re surrounded by- if this happened ten years ago my daughter probably wouldn’t see right now,” said Ryan from her home in California. Doctors told her Sophie would become blind, and there was little hope the tumor would shrink. After giving her child cannabis oil with a 2:1 THC to CBD ratio, to go along with chemotherapy treatments; the tumor has shrunk, Sophie has an appetite, and is able to live a better life. Little Soph is another child who has shown how cannabis can work wonders to treat our worst diseases, and recently, more studies have backed up the anecdotal evidence.
“There is a large body of scientific data which indicates that cannabinoids specifically inhibit cancer cell growth and promote cancer cell death,” said Dr. David Meiri, the leader of Technion’s Laboratory of Cancer Biology and Cannabinoid Research, in Haifa, Israel. Preliminary study has shown cannabis can be the ideal treatment of brain and breast cancers. Although researchers are hesitant to say cannabis cures cancer, they did note cancer cells have been shown to suffer apoptosis when they are met with cannabinoids. That finding is exceptionally important considering cancer cells are notorious with evading various types of cell death, making a cure even harder to find.
The research out of Israel is not the only case where it has been shown that cannabinoids can be an enemy to cancer growth.
In April, NIDA; which has acted as one of the federal agencies to impede on cannabis research, released a report that claimed, “Evidence from one animal study suggests that extracts from whole-plant marijuana can shrink one of the most serious types of brain tumors. Research in mice showed that these extracts, when used with radiation, increased the cancer-killing effects of the radiation.” In the case of Sophie Ryan, that very thing is happening. The combination of chemotherapy and cannabis has done wonders for the Ryan family. Unfortunately, despite those studies, the Ryan family still can’t travel outside of California; and can’t receive insurance coverage for the cannabis, forcing them to pay out of pocket. Due to the heavy dosage Sophie needs, the family can spend up to $1400 a month on the cannabis oil. Luckily, with well paying jobs and the help of friends and family they are able to afford the treatment, but for lower income families the cost, along with laws that prevent cannabis from being legal, cannabis is not an option, even when pharmaceuticals are ripping their children out from the inside.
When a federal medical cannabis bill was introduced by senators Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Rand Paul, Americans affected by diseases that pharmaceuticals can’t treat, were able to exhale for a short moment. Finally, members of the American government stood behind the science and the many families who are desperate for relief. The tide continues to shift to a common sense policy regarding cannabis where pharmaceutical funded bias is being attacked by empathy, personal cases of relief and science.
It is why Ryan is vocally putting her experiences in the spotlight to show lawmakers it’s time to legalize medical cannabis, which will open up more research, help kids live healthier lives and allow for insurance companies to cover the medicine. She helped create Cannakids, an organization that strives to provide support and education for parents of small children who are inflicted by diseases that cannabis can help treat.
“There’s people that contact me constantly who need help- not knowing what to do, and their loved ones are dying from epilepsy to cancer,” Ryan admitted before adding, “it breaks my heart because I can’t give them medicine.”