Charlotte Figi at six years old. Photo courtesy of Realm of Caring.
Hundreds of families have already relocated to Colorado in search of non-psychoactive cannabis-derived medicine for their severely ill children, sparking a long waiting list. Now the Food and Drug Administration, the pharmaceutical industry, the medical marijuana movement, a handful of conservative states, and a host of shady operators all say they've got the answer to those parents' prayers. Frequent contributor David Bienenstock offers a comprehensive history of CBD.
For all our bluster as a species, the vast majority of humans take no for an answer all the time. Grave injustice spins away like clockwork, and we choose not to throw our bodies upon the gears.
But the parents of desperately, perhaps terminally, ill children will literally stop at nothing to alleviate their offspring's suffering. And so, in May 2010, after doctors told him to begin mentally preparing for the imminent death of his cancer-stricken 20-month-old son, Mike Hyde did something that even today sounds crazy, if not criminal. He obtained a highly concentrated cannabis extract and, without informing anyone at the hospital, administered a large dose of it to his child through his feeding tube. Young Cash Hyde had already endured doctor-prescribed methadone, ketamine, morphine, and a slew of other drugs, plus 30 rounds of intensive radiation treatment that led to septic shock, a stroke, and pulmonary hemorrhaging. He had gone 40 days without eating.
Almost immediately after his first dose of cannabis, Cash's inoperable, recurring, Stage IV brain tumors started shrinking. Within weeks, on the way to full remission, he left the hospital amid a teary-eyed standing ovation from the entire cancer ward—hailed as a miracle. A beacon of hope.
At which point his father did something equally "crazy." He talked to the press.
"If I wouldn't have stepped in when I did, [my son] wouldn't be here right now," he told FoxNews.com, in one of many interviews. "Marijuana oil is the best pain drug available for Cashy, as well as a neuroprotectant, antioxidant, and antibacterial. I know it's saving his life."
Mike Hyde wasn't just willing to risk years in prison to give his own kid cannabis. He risked the same so that other parents in need would know about their herbal option. After speaking out, he reported steady police harassment, but the authorities never moved against him. Cash lived another two-and-a-half years, passing away only after a change in Montana's medical marijuana law prevented his father from steadily accessing cannabis oil in sufficient amounts to keep his son's tumors at bay.
Just hours after Cash died, five uniformed police officers arrived at Mike Hyde's house, treating it like a "murder scene."
Think of the Children
Cash Hyde has left this world behind, but his legacy will outlive us all.
In just the last four months, VICE has reported on the US federal government quietly supplying cannabis extracts to epileptic children as part of an FDA-approved study, and the Alabama state legislature voting unanimously to legalize similar treatments when authorized by doctors at the state university's department of neurology.
In both cases, pediatric epileptics will ingest highly concentrated extracts made from all-natural cannabis plants specially bred to produce little to no THC and high levels of cannabidiol (CBD)—a non-psychoactive chemical compound that doesn't get you high but does provide incredibly effective anti-seizure protection for many patients. Epilepsy sufferers around the world have been clamoring for access to CBD since August, when CNN aired the first of two specials on medical marijuana featuring Charlotte Figi, a little girl who suffered 300 gran mal seizures every week, until CBD-rich cannabis oil was 99 percent effective in stopping them.
"Why were we the ones that had to go out and find this natural cure?" Charlotte's father asked in the first CNN special. "How come our doctors didn't know about this?"
Pediatric cannabis pioneer Cash Hyde with his older brother. Photo courtesy of Mike Hyde
Prior to her dramatic success with cannabis-derived medicine, a nearly six-year regimen of highly dangerous, potentially deadly pharmaceutical drugs and a series of incredibly painful procedures had left Charlotte Figi unable to walk, talk, or eat. Her parents were ready to try anything. Do anything. But they didn't get the idea to seek out high-CBD cannabis extracts from a doctor, an epilepsy specialist, a peer-reviewed medical journal, or the government. They saw it on Weed Wars, a reality TV show centered around Harborside Health Center in Oakland, California.
Headed by Stephen DeAngelo, a former marijuana dealer turned leading legal pot impressario, Harborside opened in 2006—with the stated goal of serving as a model of responsible cannabis distribution—and soon became the largest dispensary in the state. When every analytical laboratory in the Bay Area refused to test Harborside's cannabis for mold and cannabinoid content, DeAngelo, undeterred, encouraged two erstwhile pot growers, Addison Demoura and David Lampach, to master the techniques of gas chromatography and fill that void.
"For the first time in the history of human cannabis consumption, consumers will be provided a scientific assessment of the safety and potency of products prior to ingesting them," DeAngelo announced triumphantly in 2009 when testing began at Harborside.
At the time, CBD remained a somewhat obscure compound. Studies had hinted at its potential for treating pain, insomnia, nausea, anxiety, spasticity, MS, Alzheimer's, cancer, and a host of other serious conditions since the 1980s, but for the average pot grower and consumer, THC remained the only household name among cannabinoids. In fact, since CBD actually works to temper the high of THC, the world's underground marijuana growers had just spent three decades steadily, unwittingly breeding it out of the cannabis gene pool—to the extent that, despite averaging around 15 percent THC, only one in every 600 samples tested by Steep Hill Lab reached 4 percent CBD.
According to Demoura, "that sharp decline in CBD had a lot to do with 'bag appeal.' In the black market, people assessed their cannabis based on how it looked in a sandwich bag and maybe got a quick smell before the exchange was made with a dealer. Everybody wanted pot to look great, smell great, and give you that super-THC high, so a lot of the genetic lines that originally had a lot of CBD in them saw that CBD bred out by the demand for super-potent, super-sticky buds."
Journalist Fred Gardner had been reporting on CBD research since 1999, however, and recognized the pharmacological potential of THC's lesser-known associate. In 2003, along with pioneering medical marijuana researcher and advocate Tod Mikuriya, MD, Gardner, a former editor of Scientific American, began publishing a journal covering the latest advances in cannabis medicine. The first issue of O'Shaughnessy's, named in honor of the doctor who introduced cannabis to Western medicine in 1843, described the significance of CBD and reported that GW Pharmaceuticals, a British company, was legally producing a plant-based medicine containing equal parts THC and CBD.
Two years later, O'Shaughnessy's predicted that "the field of cannabis therapeuticals will really take off once California growers have access to an analytical test lab and can determine the cannabinoid content of their plants...Then patients can begin treating their given conditions with strains of known composition."
To accelerate this process, in 2010, along with Smoke Signals author Martin Lee, Gardner founded Project CBD, a nonprofit educational clearinghouse for physicians, scientists, growers, cannabis-testing laboratories, patients, and retailers interested in learning more about the medical utility of cannabidiol. Most notably, Project CBD worked directly with Harborside Health Center to immediately flag the small handful of samples that tested high in CBD. Gardner would then meet with the growers, tell them what he knew about the medical potential of CBD, and urge them to continue propagating the plant from which the sample came.
This was sometimes a tough sell. "Dispensary owners figured most of their customers wanted to achieve euphoria or sedation," Gardner recalls. "If high-THC herb was guaranteed to move off the shelf, why stock a type of cannabis that nobody'd heard of, with unproven effects? So the growers had to decide whether to devote limited garden space to plants that might not be marketable."
The growers who helped return CBD to America's cannabis supply deserve special mention. Starting with the recently deceased Lawrence Ringo, former proprietor of the Southern Humboldt Seed Collective, who began growing cannabis while still a teenager and 40 years later became the first California plant breeder to stabilize a CBD-rich strain with his much-beloved Sour Tsunami.
Inside GW Pharmaceuticals' fully legal cannabis cultivation facility, housed at an undisclosed location in Southern England. Photo courtesy of GW Pharmaceuticals
Meanwhile, in a series of heavily secured glass houses at an undisclosed location in Southern England, Dr. Geoffrey Guy has been growing thousands of marijuana plants since August 1998 without the least worry about the law. As founder and chairman of GW Pharmaceuticals, he's specially licensed by the British government to cultivate cannabis for use in making "whole-plant extracts" with specific ratios of THC and CBD for use as prescription medicines. Sativex, a 1:1 blend administered as a sublingual spray, has been available in Canada since 2006 and is now approved in 11 countries as a treatment for spasticity related to multiple sclerosis.
GW is also currently supplying the FDA's ongoing cannabidiol study with Epidiolex, a "purified" cannabis extract that's 98 percent CBD with no THC whatsoever. According to the UCSF Pediatric Epilepsy Center, which will lead the FDA's investigational study of 150 children with treatment-resistant epilepsy, "for one year the patients will be carefully monitored with seizure diaries and blood tests to measure the levels of the patients' other seizure medications in order to learn about [CBD's] safety, dosage, effectiveness, and drug interactions."
Dr. Guy's interest in cannabinopathic medicine dates back to 1997, when he decided to "pop in" on a half-day symposium on the therapeutic uses of cannabis, organized by the MS Society (UK), and left the emotionally charged meeting deeply moved by the MS patients' accounts of how cannabis greatly improved their quality of life. He also smelled a lucrative business opportunity.
Guy had already been the lead researcher in charge of more than 250 clinical studies, winning approval for nearly a dozen different drugs in more than 30 countries. So after learning that Britain's 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act allowed the government to issue a license to grow cannabis for medical research, he simply applied directly to the Home Office.
Then he traveled to the Netherlands to meet with David Watson and Robert Connell Clarke, two expat California pot growers who'd exiled themselves from America's war on drugs sometime in the mid 1980s. Once safely ensconced in Amsterdam, the duo formed HortaPharm, and dedicated themselves to collecting cannabis seeds from around the world, both to create a stable genetic library and to breed new hybrids with desirable traits.
According to Fred Gardner's reporting in High Times Medical Marijuana magazine,
Guy was especially interested in the HortaPharm strains in which CBD, not THC, predominated. This was his great double insight as a pharmaceutical entrepreneur and as a physician: cannabidiol would be the key to legitimacy, because it countered the psychoactive effects of THC. And it had important therapeutic benefits of its own (as indicated by the MS patients' strong preference for CBD-rich hash from Morocco as an anti-spasmodic).
Dr. Guy would later form strategic alliances with Bayer, Novartis, Otsuka, Ipsen, Almirall, and other giant multinational pharmaceutical companies, all of which now have a vested interest in seeing medical marijuana succeed and flourish—provided it comes in the form of a patented, profitable prescription drug.
A Chronic Condition with No Cure
To understand how CBD works to suppress epileptic seizures, you must first have a working knowledge of the endocannabinoid system—a collection of receptors located in our brains, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells that fit the active chemicals in weed like a lock fits a key. These receptors in turn play a vital role in regulating the body's most basic functions.
"The endogenous cannabinoid system, named after the plant that led to its discovery, is perhaps the most important physiologic system involved in establishing and maintaining human health," according to Dr. Dustin Sulak, an osteopathic physician and medical marijuana advocate who frequently recommends cannabis to his patients for a wide range of ailments. "Endocannabinoids and their receptors are found throughout the body. In each tissue, the cannabinoid system performs different tasks, but the goal is always the same: homeostasis, the maintenance of a stable internal environment despite fluctuations in the external environment."
Dr. Jefferey Hergenrather, president of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians, notes that the endocannabinoid system went undiscovered until the mid 1990s and didn't start finding its way into medical school curricula for another decade. So most practicing doctors "just don't understand that cannabinoids found in the marijuana plant activate and modulate an important natural system in the body in a way that logically accounts for all the varied benefits people claim to get from ingesting cannabis."
While Martin Lee adds that we only know what we do because "the National Institute of Drug Abuse subsidized studies designed to prove the deleterious effects of cannabis while blocking inquiry into its potential benefits, [but] rather than discrediting cannabis, NIDA inadvertently facilitated a series of major discoveries about the workings of the human brain."
While THC works primarily by binding directly to the body's endocannabinoid receptors, CBD produces profound anti-inflammatory, anti-pain, anti-anxiety, anti-psychotic, and anti-spasm effects by indirectly stimulating these same receptors through inhibition of the enzyme that metabolizes and destroys anandamide, a cannabinoid-like compound produced naturally in the body.
A 2013 study, partially funded by GW Pharmaceuticals, and published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, showed that whole-plant cannabis extracts rich in CBD, when given to mice and rats afflicted with six different kinds of epilepsy, exhibited "significant anticonvulsant effects" that "strongly suppressed seizures without causing the uncontrollable shaking and other side effects of existing anti-epilepsy drugs."
"There is a pressing need for better treatments for epilepsy," concluded Dr. Ben Whalley, senior lecturer in pharmacology at Leeds University and the study's head researcher. "It's a chronic condition with no cure, and currently, in around one third of cases, the currently available treatments do not work, cause serious side effects, and increase fatalities."
In a recent interview with Medscape Medical News, Dr. Orrin Devinsky, director of New York University's Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, described the medical profession as at "an inflection point" regarding cannabis-derived medicine as an epilepsy treatment.
"We all agree that there are good data about the effectiveness of CBD and THC in some animal models of epilepsy," he said, "[but] there is still disagreement about whether children with epilepsy should be treated with medical marijuana. Some feel that the benefits far outweigh the risks, especially considering that many FDA-approved antiepileptic drugs have disabling side effects—especially when used at high doses in combination. Others feel that the potential toxicity of THC and possibly CBD on the developing nervous system do not warrant use without better data."
The Illusion of Progress
"I worry that we just don't know enough about it," Dr. Sharon Levy, of the Boston Children's Hospital at Harvard Medical School, recently told NBC News. "I think they're putting their child at risk of long-term consequences of marijuana use that we don't fully understand."
Levy's comment referred directly to the hundreds of families who've uprooted their lives and moved to Colorado in search of CBD. Most start by seeking out Realm of Caring, a Colorado Springs–based nonprofit featured prominently in Dr. Sanjay Gupta's Weed documentaries on CNN. Dedicated to spreading awareness of medical marijuana in all forms, the organization is now best known for producing Charlotte's Web, the high-CBD strain of cannabis used to create medicinal extracts for Charlotte Figi and the many children who have followed in her tiny footsteps.
"An FDA-approved drug can take up to 20 years to reach the market," Jesse Stanley told me, explaining that Realm of Caring's work helped push the federal government to fast-track their own investigative trials of CBD. "We already have a drug on the market that's helping people right now. So the egg was on their face if they didn't do something about this."
Along with brothers Joel, Jon, Jordan, and Jared, Jesse Stanley got into Colorado's medical marijuana business in 2009, when the industry first started opening up to entrepreneurs. Today, the Stanley's support 45 employees and own a farm, a processing plant, a breeding lab, and four dispensaries.
Jesse confirms that there's currently a waiting list in the thousands for their high-CBD extracts, but says they've just planted a bumper crop of Charlotte's Web and hope to start fully meeting demand sometime after this autumn's harvest. All of their cannabis, including many high-THC strains, is grown exclusively in high-altitude greenhouses, using natural-light cycles and organic composting nutrients. They do not let anyone else grow Charlotte's Web, citing a need to maintain control over the strain as a way to guarantee the purity and authenticity of the end product.
"Our oil is very, very different from Epidiolex, in the sense that the FDA approves only single-compound drugs," Jesse Stanley says. "So while GW Pharmaceuticals is separating CBD almost entirely from cannabis, Charlotte's Web, and the Realm of Caring oil we make from it, contains many different compounds, with CBD as the main ingredient."
In most post-Gupta media coverage, the story of CBD tends to start with Realm of Caring, but Jesse readily acknowledges that they only began breeding Charlotte's Web after first acquiring several varieties of high-CBD cannabis stock from other in-the-know growers. The Stanleys were also far from the pioneers of using concentrated CBD extracts to treat pediatric epilepsy patients. And Josh, the family's onetime spokesman, has even taken heat from some in the medical marijuana movement for aggressively lobbying in support of CBD-only legislation in various states, while consistently making statements that border on hippie-bashing.
"We are not a bunch of stoners," Josh told the Colorado Springs Gazette. "We care about what we do."
Jesse says they started out making high-THC extracts for a close family member and then expanded their efforts based on positive response from patients. He believes that THC-rich medical cannabis should be available to anyone, of any age, with a valid doctor's recommendation, but also supports so-called "CBD-only" laws as the path of least resistance for many children who might otherwise continue to suffer needlessly.
"A lot of people think we have an agenda to pass those laws, but it's not the case," Jesse says. "You've got to understand, many of these states working on CBD-only laws are extremely conservative. So right now, when trying to treat pediatric cases, getting kids high is heavily frowned upon. It's not going to take the movement forward. Even though, truth be told, the low-THC stuff is what's been working for these kids. And we also grow a lot of high-THC medicine that helps a lot of people. So this is a move in the right direction, but these laws will miss a lot of chances to help cancer patients, and many others who'd be helped by high-THC medicine."
Dr. Gupta agrees, pointing to volumes of research showing that an "entourage effect" produced by combining the more than 480 natural compounds found in cannabis is central to its incredible safety and utility as a medicine.
"I think the push for CBD-only legislation reflects a lack of understanding of the science involved," The world-famous neurologist told me. "If we turn cannabis into a single compound medicine—this is CBD, and nothing else—I think we're going to find it doesn't work as well as a whole plant extract. And the danger is that if it doesn't work as well, people will think that it's a bust, when in fact, you really need the whole plant to get maximum benefit. Certainly with marijuana the whole plant works better than the single-compound derivatives people have become so focused on."
Since March, nine states have passed so-called CBD-only laws, but somebody's still got to figure out a way to get the Stanley brothers' product, or something similar, across state lines without running afoul of federal law, which continues to classify cannabis in all forms as a Schedule 1 narcotic, the most restrictive category, reserved for drugs with no medical value and a high potential for abuse.
So far, a workable workaround has not emerged.
In fact, Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, says CBD-only laws "will likely be unworkable and will most likely provide no tangible relief or protection for the patient community they are intended to serve. These laws provide the illusion of progress, but little if any actual progress for those patients in immediate need."
Armentano also worries that such efforts offer lawmakers a convenient excuse for not passing more comprehensive medical cannabis legislation—the kind that could have helped Cash Hyde, along with millions of others who want a safer, often more effective alternative to pharmaceuticals. Whatever happens next, however, we already know these parents won't be taking no for an answer. So the only question is: Where can increasingly desperate families find CBD in the meantime?
Pump and Dump
In August 2013, not long after Sanjay Gupta's first CNN special aired, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority issued an official alert regarding the high potential for fraud among marijuana stocks:
The con artists behind marijuana stock scams may try to entice investors with optimistic and potentially false and misleading information that in turn creates unwarranted demand for shares of small, thinly traded companies that often have little or no history of financial success. The scammers behind these "pump and dump" scams can then sell off their shares, leaving investors with worthless stock.
Not exactly shocking to discover that people involved in selling stocks might be willing to fleece their own investors. But would anybody really try to make a fast buck by swindling the families of severely ill little kids?
Well, let's try turning that question around a bit.
Haven't those families been swindled already?
"Once we learned CBD was an option, we kept on asking about it, but our doctors couldn't discuss it at that time," Dustin Chandler told me, shortly after Alabama legislators unanimously approved Carly's Law, named for his daughter. "So I think the University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers must be really excited, because now they can actually study this and, hopefully, even investigate treatment options for disorders beyond epilepsy."
Wonderful, but how many children suffered and died needlessly in the interim? How many continue to suffer today, trapped in states with no laws to protect medical marijuana use whatsoever, never mind for children? And where can they turn now?
Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton recently offered parents a helpful suggestion. According to Jessica Hauser, whose son Wyatt suffers up to 100 seizures per day, the governor advised her to track down a drug dealer.
"I was incredibly hopeful when Governor Dayton invited me into his home a couple of weeks ago," Hauser told the press in a prepared statement. "I explained how my son and others like him would benefit from safe and legal access to medical marijuana. I told him in great detail our story and our struggles. [But] my optimism quickly turned to dismay when... the governor actually suggested I should just find medical marijuana for my son off the street. This is our state's top official looking me in the eye and telling me that I should have to break the law to buy marijuana from an illegal drug dealer instead of being able to access it safely and legally from a tightly regulated state licensed provider... Is that what his friends in law enforcement would prefer as well?"
Never mind the incredible hypocrisy and irresponsibility of Governor Dayton's statement. Never mind his tacit admission that the war on marijuana is a complete farce. And just imagine the utter absurdity of setting a suburban mom loose on the street, risking arrest and subsequent loss of her child as an "unfit parent," not to find "some weed" but to somehow track down a non-psychoactive high-CBD-concentrated cannabis extract that's pure and safe enough to give to a severely ill child.
Lawrence Ringo, a cannabis grower with the Southern Humboldt Seed Collective, supported early efforts to cultivate CBD-rich cannabis plants. Photo courtesy of Southern Humbold Seed Collective
Now what if I told you it's possible to buy CBD-rich extracts this very instant, totally legally, delivered direct to your door, in all 50 states? Would you want to stop and read the fine print on the label? Would you ask where and how it was made? And would you worry much over who stands behind the company and its products?
Maybe you should.
"They are trying to get around the law that says cannabidiol is a Schedule 1 substance," Project CBD co-founder Martin Lee recently explained to Forbes. "The history of the people running the show, and the shadiness of the operation, suggests that they see a way to make a fast buck out of a population that is desperate for miracles."
In his April 2014 article "Inside the Pot Stock Bubble," Forbes staff writer Nathan Vardi profiled "the shady band of ex-cons, ganja-preneurs and multilevel marketers behind the great pot penny-stock boom of 2014," reporting that,
With Colorado and Washington now permitting the sale of marijuana for recreational use, and 20 states allowing it medically, some 60 publicly traded outfits, many snarled in a tangled, difficult-to-track web of interconnections, have popped up, claiming to be pot and hemp stocks. Almost none, mind you, emerged via an IPO and all the pesky disclosure and scrutiny that come with that path. Instead, real estate, marketing and oil outfits have miraculously morphed into medical marijuana and hemp companies, either through reverse mergers or simply changing their declared line of business. And just about every single one is thinly traded on the over-the-counter bulletin board, or Pink Sheets, where promoters can push them with the enthusiasm of a campus dealer.
Vardi ably exposes the world of hemp-derived CBD stocks as a confusing fraternity of rogue characters bound together by a series of seemingly questionable deals. But really, that's all backstory. Because at the end of the day, what matters to parents is that these operators promise to legally ship CBD anywhere in the US. In fact, you can order their products right now through Amazon, where 10 grams of Real Scientific Hemp Oil (purportedly 22 percent CBD) from Hempmeds PX sells for $549 plus shipping.
Hempmeds PX is, meanwhile, directly or indirectly connected to CannaVest, Medical Marijuana Inc., Dixie Elixirs, and other companies referenced in the Forbes article. Management failed to respond to several requests for interviews, but the company claims their products are legal "because the FDA considers hemp oil and hemp oil-derived cannabinoids (like CBD) to be food-based products, [so] no legal restrictions on their importation, production, and consumption exist in the United States."
Limited domestic hemp cultivation has only very recently been legalized in the US, but back in 2004, a federal appeals court ruled that Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap company could import hemp with extremely low levels of THC into the United States, thus allowing the manufacture and sale of hemp-based foods and products nationwide. At the time, nobody considered the idea of importing high-CBD, low-THC hemp and then concentrating it into a medicinal product. But the FDA has since confirmed that CBD, in and of itself, remains a Schedule 1 drug.
"Envelope-pushing medical marijuana entrepreneurs claim that it is legal to import CBD-rich oil extracted from industrial hemp grown in other countries, as long as the THC content of this oil is less than .3 percent in accordance with federal rules regarding industrial hemp products," Project CBD reports. "But this is a rather gray area of the law."
When Project CBD tested a group of products made in this fashion, two independent laboratories reported that they contained levels of CBD significantly below what was listed on the label. And even if a $549 bottle of RSHO oil does deliver the full 2,200 milligrams promised, that's still at a cost of more than 25 cents per milligram, compared to around 5 cents per milligram for Realm of Caring's oil, which costs far more to produce, according to Jesse Stanley.
More troubling was a November 20, 2013, Facebook post (since removed) from Tamar Wise, former head of science for Medical Marijuana Inc. and Dixie Elixirs Inc.:
I'm tired of so called CBD companies claiming that what they provide is medicine. Anyone using a CBD from hemp product please be aware of what you're actually getting b/c it is not what you think. These formulations start with a crude and dirty hemp paste (contaminated with microbial life! I have seen this and these organisms decompose the paste. The paste perhaps even contains residual solvent and other toxins as the extraction is done in China) made in a process that actually renders it unfit for human consumption. What these companies are doing is criminal and dangerous. In fact MJNA's RSHO is literally just this hemp paste diluted in hemp seed oil. No refinement at all!!! And what Dixie Botanicals is offering is beyond disturbing. I cannot keep quiet any more. And since I formulated most of these products as head of Dixie science, I feel responsible for spreading the truth. I left Dixie for ethical reasons but it is not enough to just walk away. These frauds need to be exposed for what they are...
In a subsequent press release, Dixie Botanicals responded by strongly defending their manufacturing practices, and the quality and efficacy of their products, claiming, "Ms. Wise and members of her science team resigned after a dispute with the company" over intellectual property rights, and were motivated to make false allegations by their desire to embark on a new endeavor "that will compete directly with Dixie Botanicals."
Step Right Up!
And now you too can get in on the ground floor of this amazing opportunity, through the magic of Multi-level Marketing (MLM). Because, that's right, not only is CBD a blessing for sick little kids, but if you act now—right now—it can also be a miracle for your pocketbook!
At least that's the basic pitch from Kannaway, an MLM operation set up to sell hemp-derived CBD products direct to consumers through a series of tiered affiliates. Which may sound suspiciously like a pyramid scheme, but totally isn't. So are you "looking for financial freedom, more time with your family and loved ones, or just more free time to enjoy your life?" And are you "ready to take back control of your life by joining the #1 industrial hemp company in the world?"
First pay a monthly fee to become a Kannaway "brand ambassador," then make a mandatory purchase or sale of of a Kannaway product, and then you're "locked in" to what Kannaway's website calls "a movement with a payment plan." From there, there are "ten ways to earn with Kannaway," including qualifying for a "team override bonus," a "differential infinity bonus," and a "coded infinity bonus" based on making sales and recruiting additional brand ambassadors.
To be clear, in pushing this affiliate program, Kannaway's website makes no specific health claims for those who use their products (lest it run afoul of the FDA); instead the marketing campaign focuses largely on the incredible, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make money selling those products—including vaporizer pens, skin-care products, and "food chew squares."
Several parents of severely ill children report being contacted by Kannaway-related companies to gauge their interest in helping to promote products. In December, VICE profiled Mykayla Comstock, an eight-year-old leukemia patient in Oregon who legally uses cannabis-derived medicine to treat her cancer, including THC-rich preparations. Last month, her mother posted the following on Facebook:
I have had several friends wonder about "Kannaway" and my thoughts regarding it.
I don't want to go into it much... I hate drama... And the people that run this company and Hempmed Px are not very nice when activists don't support them (first hand experience). But just so you all know, I think Kannaway is absolute garbage... Stick to your local canna-dispensaries and local product makers is my rule of thumb.
In September 2002, less than two weeks after the DEA raided and destroyed WAMM's medical marijuana garden, Valerie Corral gathered the collective on the steps of City Hall in Santa Cruz, California. Photo courtesy of WAMM
Back to the Garden
At the WAMM collective in Santa Cruz, California, demand for CBD-rich cannabis, tinctures, capsules, and concentrates has been growing rapidly ever since Charlotte Figi first appeared on CNN last August. Fortunately, five years ago, with help from Project CBD, WAMM began devoting ever larger portions of their in-house cultivation to high-CBD strains, which means that despite the recent spike in interest, there's currently no waiting list for CBD-rich medicine produced locally in the collective's 100 percent organic outdoor garden.
WAMM co-founder Valerie Corral has been using cannabis to control her own epileptic seizures since the 1970s and is encouraged by the positive results many members report after trying CBD-rich preparations. But she's also wary of a growing movement to anoint the non-psychoactive elements of cannabis as virtuous while continuing to deny the incredible safety and efficacy of THC, as well as the vast superiority of whole-plant medicine over single-compound preparations.
"When we talk about CBD instead of talking about cannabis, that's a very narrow view," she told me. "That's us as humans presuming that we know more about how to be a plant than a plant does."
Once described as "the gold standard of the medical marijuana movement" by a federal judge, WAMM offers patients not just medical marijuana of the highest order but also a homegrown community of hundreds of members and volunteers dedicated to providing comprehensive, compassionate care. Plus something the FDA, the pharmaceutical companies, and even the Stanley brothers can't claim when it comes to cannabis—deep roots.
In 1996, Valerie Corral co-authored Proposition 215, a voter initiative that made California the first state to legalize medical cannabis. The US Justice Department responded on September 5, 2002, when 30 heavily armed agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency raided WAMM's state-legal medical cannabis garden, holding Valerie, her husband (and WAMM co-founder) Mike Corral, and a paraplegic woman at gunpoint. The authorities laughed while chopping down hundreds of cannabis plants grown to supply the sick and dying.
Once released from custody, Valerie faced a very real threat of life in prison, where she would be cut off from any contact with cannabis to control her seizures. But instead of backing down, less than two weeks after the DEA raid, WAMM gathered together on the steps of City Hall, alongside the mayor of Santa Cruz, to defiantly distribute free medicine to the terminally ill. Thousands of people rallied in support. And the New York Times showed up to document any potential showdown. At which point the federal government blinked. So, the next spring, WAMM defiantly replanted the garden, where's it's grown in peace ever since.
"Every person is a universe unto themselves, so the best way to treat an individual with cannabis medicine is to start slowly and build up, allowing the patient to set the pace, gauge the effects, and self-titrate the appropriate dosage," Valerie says. "That's a very common and obvious approach with plant medicines, but unfortunately modern doctors understand very little about plant medicine."
Danny Desmidt, for example, brought his daughter Justine to the Oakland Children's Hospital's special tuberous sclerosis clinic for ten years to meet with doctors and researchers, and never once heard a word about the cannabis plant. Instead, they gave him two options: more and more and more of the synthetic drugs that were already failing to control her seizures (while producing "brutal" side effects), or brain surgery with a 40 percent success rate.
Then he saw Charlotte Figi on CNN and began to research CBD independently.
"Any parent who hears about this stuff, and the way it works, they're going to try it no matter what," he said, "because there's nothing worse than watching your kid have a seizure. And now all of us parents are finding out about this."
After making the decision to seek out CBD-rich cannabis medicine for his daughter, Desmidt spent months looking for the best possible supplier, before a friend from Santa Cruz learned of his search and put him in touch with Valerie Corral. He was impressed by her long history of community service. Also, from the very beginning of WAMM, she'd worked with a wide range of seriously ill children.
"Valerie's guidance was extremely vital to getting me on the right path," Desmidt says. "She has epilepsy, so she knows all about the synthetics and what we've been through. And she's also been working with cannabis patients for decades, so she knew how to help me design and implement a treatment plan for an 11-year old."
Not wanting to expose his daughter to psychoactivity, Desmidt chose a 25:1 (CBD to THC) oil, starting slow, with small doses and no changes in Justine's pharmaceutical regime. When that showed positive results, he decided to bring her specialists into the loop, primarily so they could help safely wean her off prescription drugs. She's now down from 12 per day to just four. And she also supplements her treatment with a non-psychoactive form of THC called THC-A that seems to balance the CBD in a way that improves mood.
Back in October, before Justine's first dose of CBD-rich cannabis, seizures were a daily occurrence. Now she's gone seven weeks without one.
Looking back, Desmidt can't believe how quickly and decisively everything changed once he learned the truth about cannabis. And it's not as if he's lived a sheltered life when it comes to marijuana. In fact, he's a professional reggae DJ who's been using pot to treat his own chronic pain for years. He just never thought the same plant would one day miraculously transform his daughter's universe.
"That the answer was so close, all that time, is just mind-boggling."