Families with sick children flock to Colorado to try cannabis sativa treatments
New treatments using cannabis may help children suffering from seizure-related conditions like epilepsy but there is concern over other effects
Hundreds of American families are flocking to Colorado, the first US state to legalize cannabis for recreational use, seeking to use the drug as a “miracle cure” to treat children suffering from seizure-related conditions like epilepsy.
Around 100 families have already become “medical refugees” in the state and a further 171 are considering moving there in the next few months, according to a non-profit group which is producing a medical cannabis-derived treatment for sufferers.
Colorado officials have now announced they want to spend $7 million on grants to scientists to establish whether children could benefit from such treatments, or whether they would suffer long term damaging side effects.
The development came as crime experts also warned that legal cannabis businesses could expect to face extortion attempts from Mexican drug cartels, which stand to lose millions of dollars in illicit profits after the drug was legalized in Colorado on Jan 1.
Under federal US law banks are not allowed to offer standard services, like business loans and credit cards, to companies making or selling cannabis.
All transactions are therefore made in cash with employees carrying briefcases full of money to make supply payments.
One private security firm is already employing 30 heavily armed former soldiers and police officers to protect a dozen cannabis businesses.
Of the families who have arrived in Colorado hoping to treat their children some have reported huge reductions in seizures after giving them a type of cannabis oil containing the derivative cannabidiol.
But researchers have warned of a lack of testing and also said children moved to the state could suffer increased seizures because of the higher altitude, with some of them having already ended up in hospital as a result.
The most high profile case of a child being treated with cannabidiol is that of seven-year-old Charlotte Figi who suffers from a rare, severe form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome. (See Charlotte’s Web Cannabis Strain)
She was afflicted with up to 300 seizures a week. For the past two years she has been treated with a strain of cannabis, renamed Charlotte’s Web after her, and her family says the seizures have reduced to less than one a week on average.
The Colorado non-profit group which produces Charlotte’s Web has received thousands of calls from parents across the US, with 100 of those having already moved to the state to get the oil.
It says it cannot produce enough to meet demand and has a waiting list of 171 families, who are considering moving when it is available, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported.
Paige Figi, Charlotte’s mother, says she supports rigorous testing but couldn’t wait for authorities to carry it out because she couldn’t bear to see her child suffer.
She says her daughter can now ride horses, ski, paint and dance, and “her brain is healing. She is healthy. She is happy”.
According to Dr Margaret Gedde, a Colorado physician who has recommended cannabis derivatives to patients with severely epileptic children, eight of 11 families she studied said their children’s seizures had bee reduced by at least 98 per cent.
But other medical experts warned parents against cannabis products. Dr Orrin Devinsky, director of the epilepsy centre at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, told the Denver Post: “The mania needs to calm down. I’ve never seen this level of frenzy,”
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