This past Saturday I had the privilege of attending the Medicinal Cannabis Education and Advocacy Event that took place at the Oklahoma State Capitol. The event was sponsored by Senator Constance Johnson and it featured speakers including Dr. Ed Maa, Director of Clinical Trials – Epilepsy Foundation; Realm of Caring founders, Josh Stanley and Joel Stanley; a mother, Paige Figi; and former police officer, Mike McGee – Founder of Oklahoma Cannabis Activists.
For three hours the attendees (some of whom spilled out into the two conference rooms’ adjacent hallways, or found space to sit on the floor, or resorted to standing for the duration of the presentation) listened attentively to the riveting, hopeful, yet in some cases, distressing presentations and personal testimonies regarding the hope that lies in medicinal cannabis.
Dr. Maa presented research results showing the proven success of medicinal cannabis as well as a timeline depicting the history of cannabis use and legislation. I was interested to learn that cannabis had been used as medicine throughout history all over the world to treat a very broad range of ailments and that it was not until the 1920s that its name was changed from “cannabis” to “marihuana “ (sounds scary, huh?) and made illegal in the United States. Dr. Maa reported his research findings of cannabis treatment in patients with epilepsy which were phenomenal.
The Stanley brothers (there are six of them) became involved in medicinal cannabis as a result of their cannabis growing business in Colorado where this plant is legal. Paige Figi, mother of Charlotte who had been suffering with Dravet Syndrome, was searching for strain of cannabis that was low in THC (the psychoactive element) and high in CBD (the medicinal element). Providentially, she was referred to the Stanley brothers who happened to be growing a strain of cannabis that met this standard.
This meeting began a beautiful relationship between the Figi family and the Stanleys. This strain of cannabis was administered to Charlotte and in the first week of treatment, Charlotte was seizure free! That is great considering the week before she had experienced 300 seizures. Charlotte went from being tube-fed to eating normally within the first few months of treatment. The Stanleys subsequently founded Realm of Caring and even named this particular strain after the Figis’ daughter. It’s called Charlotte’s Web and it has been used to successfully treat other children who suffer from seizures.
Former law enforcement officer, Mike McGee, discussed the work that is being done by the organization he founded – Oklahoma Cannabis Activists. This organization is working to give Oklahomans safe access to medicinal cannabis. A massive effort is needed to educate legislators, law enforcers, doctors, patients, and all Oklahomans on the vital need to end prohibition against cannabis.
After these people presented their testimony, questions were taken from the attendees. There were a few moms in attendance who had children suffering from epileptic seizures. One in particular stood out to me. This mother was married to a member of the military who is stationed in Oklahoma. One of her five kids has a rare and catastrophic form of intractable epilepsy. This mother told us how often her daughter had seizures; she even had to leave the room earlier in the day to give her daughter oxygen. None of the prescribed pharmaceutical drugs have improved her daughter’s situation. The only treatment remaining is CBD. But unfortunately, because of restrictive state laws and because of particularities of the military, she can’t leave the state as she would need to do for treatment unless she and her husband separated which would then bring about even more challenges to their already stressed family.
This whole experience was eye opening and heartbreaking. Families are being torn apart and people are dying because of laws restricting the use of this proven treatment. It is not as simple as packing up and heading for Colorado as some might think. For many people, dire personal, family, and financial consequences would come about as a result of leaving Oklahoma.
Personally I think the laws prohibiting cannabis are ridiculous. It is a natural plant that grows out of the ground that God gave us to use, just like basil or tomatoes, except this plant can HEAL. There have been zero recorded deaths from cannabis use (even recreational use) and it is not even addictive. It is inhumane of legislators to prevent people from obtaining the treatment that would likely heal them and it just adds insult to injury knowing that the potential cure lies on the other side of an invisible line…the border between Oklahoma and Colorado. We should all work to get prohibition of cannabis repealed in Oklahoma.