Roy Exum: ‘Would Marijuana Help?’

Wednesday, February 19, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

I was talking to one of my doctors last week who knows I wrestle with chronic pain and I brought up the fact that medicinal marijuana has become the national rage. Twenty-one states now allow it and Tennessee is one of about a dozen other states that is taking a hard look at a topic our best scientists admit they know too little about.

I’ll admit I am nearly paranoid in my fear of prescription narcotics but several months ago, after Colorado legalized marijuana, I became fascinated with the tale of tiny Charlotte Figi, a six-year-old girl who has a rare disease called Dravet Syndrome. The kid was having 200 grand mal seizures a week – about once every 25 minutes – and was in a living hell. Strapped in a wheelchair, the child had a one-word vocabulary.

Today young Charlotte can walk, speak in full sentences and has a blend of marijuana named in her honor called “Charlotte’s Web.” Her life has been totally changed after her desperate parents began to mix a strain of the embattled cannabis with olive oil and started giving Charlotte two treatments a day. There is documentable proof Charlotte and about 85 other kids have had their lives altered and today – get this -- there are 2,000 more people on a Colorado Springs waiting list. Over 100 families have literally moved to Colorado!

So I am talking to this doctor I trust with my life and I suddenly asked, “Would marijuana help me?” The answer came out easily. “It is illegal for me to prescribe it. It is illegal in the state of Tennessee … but I would not tell you not to try it … “

Holy smokes, that was unbelievable for me. That is the closest real-life example I have ever heard that maybe there is more to all the hoopla, and growing public acceptance. Seriously, maybe there really is more to marijuana than mainstream conservatives have been willing to admit until now but scientists worry there may be more we don’t know.

Amy Brooks-Kayal, the vice president of the American Epilepsy Society, was quoted in an Associated Press story the other day as saying "Until we have information (and proven research), as physicians, we can't follow our first creed, which is do no harm," she explained,  carefully noting that, to date, it hasn’t been proven there aren’t threatening side effects to the children who are now avoiding the life-threatening seizures.

The strain of cannabis that is being given to these kids with seizures reportedly contains a relatively small amount of tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive component in marijuana, which means the user doesn’t get the “high” that the marijuana being sold in Colorado’s regular pot stores provides. Doctors remain leery, of course, because there is virtually no data yet available.

Josh Stanley, who grows the strain, told the AP, “My brothers and I thought that this little-known compound might just be the missing link to provide some validity in the realm of cannabis research and as it turns out we were correct," he said.

"Now the plant we had created, while it may have immense medical benefits, is completely non-psychoactive... so we named the plant 'The Hippie's Disappointment' (but) it proved incredibly useful to Charlotte."

There is some belief – and worry – that medicinal marijuana is the last step towards totally legalizing the drug, which the state of Washington will be the next to do. In Florida legalizing marijuana is on the November ballot but – just to be safe -- three state senators just sponsored a separate bill for the medicinal cannabis to be approved by the legislature – not the popular vote.

"Charlotte’s Web helps patients improve their quality of life and offers hope to parents desperate to provide relief to their children," state Senator Rob Bradley said. "While many Floridians have significant concerns about medical marijuana being misused, SB 1030 offers a new opportunity for Floridians who have not found relief with current medications." And Senator Aaron Bean added, “This is completely different from what the public knows about marijuana. I’m excited about the possibility of ending seizures in medically challenged kids."

In New York a recent poll showed 88 percent of voters now favor medicinal marijuana and 58 percent favor recreational pot. According to government surveys, some 25 million Americans have smoked marijuana in the past year, and more than 14 million do so regularly despite harsh laws against its use. You can almost bet it will pass because New York and many other states are admittedly coveting Colorado’s tax haul, on pace to exceed $100 million a year (for the record, alcohol in Colorado nets $39 million in taxes annually).

Candidly, I think it is just a matter of time – a recent Wall Street Journal/CBS News poll showed 55 percent of Americans favor legal sales. I see medicinal marijuana in Tennessee on a fast track and, with the war on marijuana long a joke, let’s legalize and tax the stuff. The United States is spending an estimated $7.6 billion a year in its losing fight against marijuana possession laws and maybe we could use that money to help children who suffer from seizures.

royexum@aol.com


Come Locked And Loaded - And Response

That's right.  Marco Rubio, Republican contender for President, though in a free fall nationally, will be coming to Chattanooga this coming Thursday from 3:30-5 p.m. to the Lindsey Street Hall.   With Rubio a staunch supporter of the 2nd amendment it certainly is expected that all attending come locked and loaded. Yes, bring your guns one and all, raise them and wave ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: What Voters Think

There are over 9,000 students who attend Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn., which – in an effort to be relative -- is just a touch smaller than our UT-Chattanooga. What makes Quinnipiac unique is that it is home of The Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, which produces what’s called the “Q Poll” because hardly anybody knows how to pronounce “Kwin-uh-pe-ack.” The Q ... (click for more)

Hutcheson Medical Center Seeking Court Approval To Sell Trenton Family Practice For $350,000

Hutcheson Medical Center, continuing to make cost-cutting measures, is seeking court approval to sell the Trenton Family Practice at Trenton, Ga., for $350,000. Ted Rumley, county executive for Dade County, said the medical center is so important for the county that officials have arranged for the Dade County Industrial Development Authority to buy it. He said arrangements ... (click for more)

Truck Driver Killed In Wreck On I-75 SB After Striking Guardrail

A driver of a tractor-trailer was killed in a wreck on I-75 southbound near the Bonny Oaks Drive exit early Monday morning. The victim was Kenneth Mills, 59. The cause of the tractor-trailer’s collision with the guardrail is still under investigation. At approximately 5:51 a.m., Chattanooga Police officers responded to the traffic accident at the 700 block of I-75 ... (click for more)

Jumper, Ex-Baylor Star, To Start For Vols Vs. Bowling Green

(Story will be updated) When 25 th -ranked Tennessee plays Bowling Green on Saturday afternoon at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, former Baylor School standout Colton Jumper will be the Vols’ starting middle linebacker. The 6-foot-2-inch, 227-pound Jumper played at Baylor for coach Phil Massey and recorded 251 tackles, 39 tackles for loss, 22 sacks, two interceptions, caused ... (click for more)

County Schools Waiting On Report On Condition Of East Ridge High Stands

County school officials are awaiting a report from city of East Ridge inspectors on the condition of the concrete football stands at East Ridge High School. Lee McDade, assistant supt., said maintenance of the stands is up to the county schools. The concrete stands are currently roped off. The concrete complex includes a lower area with coaches' offices and player dressing ... (click for more)