Patricia Smith: Saving One of Our Own

May 3, 2016 – A well-attended forum, “Walk a Mile in Their Shoes,” was recently held to raise awareness about using CBD’s to treat a laundry list of conditions, including intractable childhood epilepsy. (CBD is short for cannabidiol, a component found in certain cannabis strains.)

Despite personal invitations from Forrest Hurd, not one of the sitting members of the Board of Supervisors showed up (Richard Anderson sent his regrets), nor did any of the Republican leadership that spoke out against this family for using their “unfortunate” child as a publicity tool.

This was a perfect opportunity to meet the Hurd’s and to hear scientific evidence presented by Dr. Burnell Vasser, but the aforementioned chose to remain in the dark. The program was so moving, I saw grown men wiping tears from their eyes.

The truth is families who have children with intractable epilepsy are racing the clock to find a medication that will control their children’s seizures before the disease claims their lives.

The discovery of CBD to treat seizures has given hope to families across the nation who have tried every technique and medication offered by Western medicine to no avail. Children as young as 18 months have undergone some or all of the following procedures: hundreds of hours in hospitals undergoing extensive testing, being put into chemically induced comas for a year at a time, surgically removing multiple lobes of the brain, having nerve stimulators implanted, special diets, and trying up to twenty different medications – none of which worked.

Forrest compares his son’s condition to watching someone taze your child every 45 minutes until they eventually die and being helpless to stop the process.

Now imagine one day you discover that a natural plant distilled into a healing oil has the ability to do what Western medicine couldn’t – stop or reduce your child’s seizures. What would you do to get this medicine?

The problem lies in the fact that not every type of epilepsy (and there are many different kinds) responds to the same ratio of CBD:THC. Each condition needs a slightly different combination that needs to be replaced every few months with a new strain to stay effective. Because these children are a subset of a subset, there is no financial incentive for big pharma to develop specific medications for these patients and even MMJ dispensaries do not carry the full range of strains they need.

In January, the Board of Supervisors passed an outdoor ban on cultivating cannabis to make it easier for the Sheriff to eradicate illegal grows. We all want to see the large, environmentally destructive growers run out of town, but should we punish patients for the illegal acts of others?

The County maintains that 12 indoor plants is sufficient to supply enough medicine for any patient, but they reached this conclusion without input from any doctors, patients, or cultivators to learn if that was feasible. Had they bothered to ask experts in their fields, they would have learned that indoor cannabis is not suitable for patients. Period.

Indoor cultivation by definition is an unnatural process that requires copious amounts of chemicals to control pests and mold that plague indoor gardens. When the raw material from these plants is distilled into medicinal tinctures, the remaining pesticides are also concentrated. I don’t recommend this for a healthy person, but for a patient with a compromised immune system, it can be deadly.

Prop 215 was passed by the voters of CA (including Nevada County) to encourage local governments to pass laws that ensure patients have “safe and affordable” access to medical marijuana. Measure W prohibits both. I’ve already discussed how indoor cultivation does not provide safe medicine, but the financial outlay required under Measure W also makes the medicine unaffordable. The costs to set up a compliant indoor grow outstrip the cost of purchasing the medicine elsewhere – and under Measure W that would mean the unregulated black market.

If we vote down Measure W, the outdoor ban will remain in effect until a community stakeholders’s group is formed to find reasonable compromises between the needs of patients and the rights of homeowners. Perhaps that means only allowing Collectives on larger AG parcels who can grow for patients in residential neighborhoods. (Measure W allows indoor cultivation in Alta Sierra, Lake of the Pines, and Lake Wildwood, increasing the risk of house fires like the recent BHO explosion in Alta Sierra.)

Please vote No on W. Ironically, this measure benefits recreational users at the expense of legitimate patients and allows nuisance issues to trump the health of critically ill children. We can do better.

Patrica Smith
Nevada County Chair
Americans for Safe Access