It’s hard to think about medical marijuana without considering seizures; while cannabis benefits many ailments, it’s been a bit of a miracle drug for those afflicted with certain seizure disorders. And a lot of the fame surrounding it was helped along by one little girl: Charlotte Figi.
Dravet Syndrome, Charlotte and Seizures
The idea that cannabis could be used to treat seizures gained a great deal of momentum in 2013 when Charlotte Figi, an eight-year-old Colorado girl who suffers from Dravet Syndrome, found that medical marijuana helped ease her symptoms (per Scientific American, Dravet Syndrome is a type of epilepsy that is particularly devastating and hard to treat.).
While Charlotte’s case helped bring cannabis into the public eye, she was not an anomaly: research backs pot as an effective source for people who suffer from treatment-resistant epilepsy (something that’s not uncommon – a third of epileptics have this severe form). Not only that, but people have been using cannabis to help with convulsions for decades and decades and probably much longer than we think.
The Lancet Neurology reports the largest study to date on cannabis-based treatment for resistant epilepsy. Researchers from New York University Langone Medical Center treated 162 patients with CBD oil and monitored them for 12 weeks. The treatment was supplementary to any other existing medication.
They found that CBD maintained an efficiency similar to other seizure drugs with a seizure reduction of 36 percent. Two percent of patients became entirely seizure-free.
As most people know, CBD does not offer the “high” synonymous with marijuana: it’s THC that throws that party.
Despite CBD’s benignity – there’s literally zero madness to the reefer – not everyone advocates for medical marijuana, whether it has CBD, THC, or another cannabinol. That’s why programs like StopTheSeizures.org exist.
StopTheSeizures.org is a group of parents advocating for the legalization of medical marijuana in children with epilepsy. They maintain several goals, including:
To support and educate parents about the benefits of cannabis therapy for children with epilepsy.
To serve parents as a patient advocacy resource on medical cannabis related issues.
To present information to the public about medical cannabis, including articles in the news, access to medical cannabis research findings, and general information.
To work with the politicians on passing medical cannabis policy that provides safe and legal access to children with epilepsy.
As an advocacy group, StopTheSeizures.org must field a lot of question from people who oppose cannabis, from people who support it, and from people who want to know more.
Some of the most common questions include:
Will a child get high using medical marijuana?
No, kids don’t get high as long as they use the right strain. The strains used for seizures have very low THC and high CBD.
Why do strains need THC?
THC enhances CBD – it’s the coworker that helps CBD excel at its job.
Do kids smoke medicinal marijuana?
No, while some adults prefer to smoke their medical cannabis, kid can ingest it through edibles, as a vapor, in an oil, or in the form of capsules.
Will children who use medical marijuana get addicted and turn to drug abuse?
The notion that marijuana is a gateway drug has long been disproven; it doesn’t cause people to turn towards harder, more dangerous drugs. The Institute of Medicine describes alcohol and nicotine as two substances much more likely to pave the way for substance abuse.
People also don’t typically get addicted to marijuana. Though some long-term and chronic users can experience withdrawal when stopping suddenly, you can argue the same about anything. Someone who eats a banana every single day may feel off if they abruptly stop after thirty years.
Another point is that cannabis is a plant, making it a potentially safer option than many prescription drugs used for seizures (as well as a variety of other ailments). Antidepressants, anticonvulsants, opiates, and barbiturates (to name a few), can lead to kidney issues, liver damage, cardiac complication, hypertension, and the list goes on and on.
How efficient is medical marijuana?
Some of the efficiency surrounding medical marijuana is speculative, some is anecdotal, and some is based on research. Because of its scheduling, marijuana remains a drug that’s difficult to study, but not impossible: as more and more evidence backs its benefits, greater amounts of research are being conducted, hopefully leading to more cannabis-laden treatments in the future.
Medical Marijuana in Maryland
Medical marijuana is legal in Maryland in theory, but that’s about it. Per WTOP News, it became legal in June of 2014, but it hasn’t mattered:
There’s nowhere in the Maryland where patients can buy cannabis. Yet, that’s slotted to change summer 2017
In late 2016, the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission gave 102 medical dispensaries pre approval for licenses (811 applications were submitted). The dispensaries have up to a year to become operational. This puts them on schedule to start selling medical marijuana to qualifying patients by this summer (at best) and winter (at worst).
A lot of it depends on how quickly the bureaucracy moves and the stickiness of the obligatory red tape – pre applications are followed by background checks, financial and criminal.
Why it’s taken Maryland so long to put their legal program into practice is a bit of a head scratcher (some politicians have called the execution “a mess”). House Bill 881 – which approved medicinal cannabis – involves a great deal of regulation surrounding patient registry, dispensary licenses, fees, possession limits, and the like. It also opened the door for academic medical centers to operate medical marijuana compassionate use programs, but no one really bit: people are afraid of the federal illegalities.
This is why organizations such as StopTheSeizure.org are necessary: they light a flame under the lawmakers dragging their feet.
If you want to help, the organization recommends signing petitions, meeting with Maryland legislators in person, or calling, writing, or emailing politicians.