What would you do if your child had a disease or condition that mainstream medicine couldn't cure? What if you found a medicine that could help your child, but it wasn't legal or commonly accepted as mainstream medicine? Would you break the law to save your child? Would you move your family to a state where medical Marijuana is legal and available? These are some of the questions the unfinished documentary film, Weed The People addresses.
In their documentary Weed The People film makers Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein explore the use of Cannabis medicine to help children with illnesses like cancer. An element of the marijuana plant called Cannabidiol, (CBD) has shown a unique ability to kill cancer cells in early laboratory tests. Although the early results have been positive, there's just one problem for parents who want to try this drug on their children. Cannabidiol (CBD) oil is not widely available and in some states it is illegal. The healing effect of CBD is not something taught in U.S. medical schools. That means many doctors are not educated about the potential uses of Cannabidiol. Without education, CBD remains a medicine that is not generally recommended or readily prescribed. Marijuana is made up of two parts, THC, the part that makes you high and CBD. "CBD does not have the euphoric effect -- it's not associated with stoners and potheads, "says Dr. Mark Ware, MD. Executive Director Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids. So if CBD doesn't have the "stoner" effects that marijuana does, and it may help treat illnesses like cancer, epilepsy and autism, why is it not yet available to everyone who needs it?
"How can a 6-year-old have an open-ended prescription for the poppy-derived, strong narcotic pain reliever, Oxycodone, but not have access to a gentler, non-addictive alternative like cannabis oil?, " asks filmmaker Ricki Lake. It's a legitimate question when doctors like CNN's Sanjay Gupta have come out in support of the healing benefits of Cannabidiol.
Several children and their parents are highlighted in Weed the People. The children profiled in the film, like Baby Sophie, are taking small doses of the Cannabidiol oil to beat cancer.
Recently, I sat down with filmmaker Abby Epstein to talk to about the movie. I also spoke with Tracy Ryan, the mother of Baby Sophie, one of the children profiled in the movie. Following is my interview with them.
Q.) Tell us a bit about the premise of the film and the children you cover in the movie?
A.) Abby Epstein: The film investigates the medical potential of cannabis, with a particular focus on children fighting cancer. We intentionally chose to focus on children because we feel it removes some of the stigma around cannabis medicine. So far, we are following two children in the movie -- Sophie and Chico. Both children have been using cannabis in combination with chemo and are doing very well. We believe the prohibition of medical marijuana is incredibly hypocritical and an example of the larger repression of integrative medicine. If our government can make a medicinal plant illegal, and possessing it a crime, then what is the hope for any natural alternatives in the future? This film is about people's right to choose how they want to heal themselves -- hence our title "Weed the People."
Q.) I understand the film is unfinished, how is the fund raising campaign going?
A.) Abby Epstein. We began working on the film about 18 months ago with very little funding and are looking to raise another $150K to complete the film, which is only about 30 percent finished. Our Indiegogo campaign is off to a strong start. But we have a long way to go! We are reaching out in all directions for support.
Q.) In researching and producing the film, have you come across any pharmaceutical companies interested in working with Cannabidiol oil and marketing as mainstream medicine?
A.) Abby Epstein. Yes, we have. There is definite interest and one UK-based company called GW Pharmaceuticals is actually conducting a few trials here in the U.S. We are actually working with some nonprofit organizations and oncologists at UCLA to set up a new trial regarding the anti-tumoral effects of cannabis.
Q.) Tell us how Baby Sophie is doing now. Does she continue to take Cannabis oil ?
A.) Tracy Ryan. Sophie is doing great!! The only major problem she has right now is her red blood cells keep taking a hit from the chemo, and unfortunately the cannabis can't help with that. A blood transfusion is the quick solve on that one, though. She gets a bag of blood and she bounces right back!! I swear my child is the strongest person I know. She's my princess warrior.
And yes... she is still on daily doses of cannabis oil! She is on a 2:1 ratio of high THC to CBD meaning she gets more THC to help kill her brain tumor. I can't even begin to explain how great it's working, and not only when it comes to killing her tumor. Chemo really kills a person's appetite and literally 1-2 hours after Soph takes her THC dose she is eating like a champ. She is so strong and chubby, and looks like a normal healthy kid most days.
Q.) Is it difficult for most families to obtain Cannabis oil ? Is it an expensive treatment to offer a child since it is not covered by insurance ?
A.) Tracy Ryan. It isn't super easy to find the oils honestly. Luckily I have an amazing relationship with Aunt Zelda's in San Francisco and was able to get Soph off the wait list with Realm of Caring so we are always able to get meds. Many families are not so lucky, though. Insurance doesn't cover a penny of the oils and the oils cost anywhere from $275-$350 per 10mL syringe. Since Soph is on such a high dose we can blow through 3-4 syringes a month so it's quite expensive. We have had a lot of people donate money to our family so my husband and I will do without so that we can always ensure that she has her meds first and foremost. We have had an enormous financial burden on us and we are over our heads in debt, but Sophie is getting better and that's all that matters! The brain surgeon said that she would definitely lose the vision in her left eye, and her eye is fine now! They also said that the tumor would never go away, and it's literally melting before our very eyes. I truly feel that if the tumor keeps responding the way it has in the past, we WILL get rid of this tumor for good.
To learn more about the film watch Weed the People movie trailer online. If you watch the trailer, you'll want to see the rest of this story.