New Cannabis Laws Could Change This 4-Year-Old’s Life — And Countless Others

Photo: Morgan Hintz. Courtesy of Kate Hintz.

 
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by Luke Sumpter

on April 13, 2015

Kate Hintz says by the time her daughter Morgan was two, she had already been prescribed about nine different pharmaceutical medications in an attempt to control her seizures. The little girl was taking two to four different prescriptions at a time.

Morgan suffers from Dravet Syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy that causes frequent and dangerous seizures. Conventional treatment has left Morgan with kidney stones, ulcerative colitis and a compromised respiratory system. With doctors, the family was constantly shifting her dosages around to try to find a “sweet spot” that would prevent seizures with the least amount of side effects.

“For us, that sweet spot never came,” Hintz said. “Morgan’s seizures were relentless and at times so severe they did not respond to rescue medications.”

She says the medications’ side effects began to impede on areas of her daughter’s health that weren’t previously problematic.

“At 14 months old she was diagnosed with kidney stones, at 18 months she developed ulcerative colitis, and we had numerous hospitalizations due to compromised respiratory function,” Hintz recalls. “Her father and I realized the more medications we tried, the more health issues she seemed to develop. We were — and still are — extremely cautious to give her any new medication for fear of her body’s reaction to it. She’s only four years old, and she only has one body.”

As Hintz began to assess the possible options, she told Reset, she came across cannabis medicine, which seemed to be helping and often curing children with diagnoses similar to Morgan. Both animal studies and anecdotal reports show high promise for CBD as an anti-seizure medication.

“We began to hear stories from families living in the States with medical marijuana programs, most of them also having exhausted traditional seizure treatments without success,” she said. “They were supplementing medications with various preparations of cannabis, and most of the feedback was extremely encouraging. Not only were some children experiencing less seizures, but the side effects of the marijuana actually seemed to be beneficial in some cases: improvement in sleep, increased awareness and attention, better appetites. All things we hope one day we can see in our daughter.”

Photo: Morgan Hintz. Courtesy of Kate Hintz.

Photo: Morgan Hintz. Courtesy of Kate Hintz.

Due to the laws in New York where Hintz lives, she has not yet tried giving any cannabis medicine to her daughter as doing so would be illegal and could put her at risk for serving time in prison and losing custody. She has organized a petition to ensure her four-year-old, and millions of other Americans, can access the medicine that could change their lives. Hintz’ petition is accumulating signatures to help push a bipartisan bill known as the Compassionate Access, Research Expansions and Respect States (CARERS) Act. If passed, the legislation would achieve the following:

– Allow states to legalize marijuana for medical use without federal interference
– Permit interstate commerce in cannabidiol (CBD) oils
– Reschedule marijuana to Schedule II
– Allow banks to provide checking accounts and other financial services to marijuana dispensaries
– Allow Veterans Administration physicians to recommend medical marijuana to veterans
– Eliminate barriers to medical marijuana research

Thus far the petition has collected a monolithic 175,000 supporters out of the 200,000 it hopes to obtain.

Massive reservoirs of scientific research augmented by torrents of anecdotal evidence have now cemented the fact that cannabis offers a diverse and effective array of medicinal benefits. Many of these healing benefits are derived from a family of molecules found within cannabis known as cannabinoids. Two of the most well known are THC, famed for inducing the psychoactive “high” associated with marijuana use, and CBD, a cannabinoid which is actually anti-psychotic and is becoming widely recognized for its potent anti-inflammatory abilities.

It would be both impossible and overwhelming to attempt to condense all of the most profound evidence within a single written article. However, some of the most hard hitting and paradigm shifting results showing the healing capabilities of this formerly condemned herb include a study published in the British Journal of Cancer detailing results that show THC to be effective at combating tumor cells in human subjects. The website Cancer.gov also hosts a large catalog of studies that document THC as an anti-tumor agent in animal models.

In relation to CBD, a paper published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology explains that cannabinoids posses anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant and anti-oxidant properties, to name just a few of their benefits. In spite of this growing body of evidence, cannabis and the compounds that reside within the plant are classified as Schedule I substances in the eyes of the federal government. Terms used to describe substances within this category include “drugs with a high potential for abuse” and “drugs with no currently accepted medical use.”

Not only does the latter term not stand up to hard evidence and reason, but it has also led to damaging degrees of ignorance within the echelons of government that prevent people from legally obtaining and administering desperately needed medicine. There are many tragic stories of those in need of cannabis as a medicine who have had no choice but to break the draconian laws for the sake of their own health or that of their loved ones. One such story is that of Adam Koessler, who, against the barrier of Australian law, administered THC oil to his cancer stricken daughter and suffered arrest as a consequence.

Waves are being made thanks to the efforts of those who have experienced first hand how damaging these laws can be, however, many in the cannabis legalization movement have criticized the CARERS Act for failing to go far enough to protect cannabis medicine. If passed, it would legalize CBD-heavy strains, but wouldn’t do the same for whole-plant cannabis. Nevertheless, it’s hoped that the CARERS Act will help to eliminate the negative stigma associated with cannabis use by rescheduling the herb to Schedule II — a class of “drug” in the U.S. which can be prescribed medicinally and studied much more openly than those listed under Schedule I. Hintz says this could eliminate unnecessary fear about it use as well.

“By allowing more doctors and researchers to easily study cannabis and it’s medicinal properties, the hope is that there will be significantly more treatments available for patients that are suffering from debilitating illness,” she said. “Personally, I think that the main goal of the sponsors is simply to create safe access to medical marijuana for patients that need it. But as we know, that process is vastly more complicated than it should be.”

Hintz said she’s heard stories of children becoming “completely seizure free” after using cannabis concentrates.

“That is the ultimate success story for anyone living with epilepsy,” she said. “I would be happy if Morgan simply had less seizures, or needed to take less medicines to have a decent quality of life. A Schedule I substance is classified as having zero medicinal value, yet cannabis and several of its components have been proven to maintain great benefits. Why do you think it still holds this status federally?”

Hintz says Washington is stuck in circular logic in which, because of the plant’s scheduling, doctors are unable to research its effects, and the FDA cannot approve it medicinally. And, since the FDA will not approve as medication, lawmakers see no reason to change the current scheduling.

“With CARERS, my hope is that these three very determined senators are able to break this dated pattern,” she said. “[With cannabis] there is the possibility to replace at least two seizure medications, a sleeping pill, and a medication that helps [Morgan] relax and empty her bladder properly. A bonus would be to treat her movement disorder — she has chorea, a condition of constant random movements and head shaking. We’ve tried a couple of pharmaceuticals for that but nothing has worked.”