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


Time To Target The Criminal

While we are in the mood to give up our constitutional rights, why not go after a few in our justice system that protect the criminal and not restrict the law-abiding gun owner?  I for one would be more agreeable to keeping some of these killers off the streets. I gladly welcome TSA screening at the airport, I am pleased when they ask me for an ID at the bank even though ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: What You Leave Behind

Randy Travis, one of the best at singing country songs that has ever been, had a song about three people who got killed when an 18-wheeler missed a stop sign. There was a farmer and a teacher, a hooker and a preacher on this bus and Randy tells us: “One's headed for vacation, one for higher education, An' two of them were searchin' for lost souls.” In that wonderful song, the ... (click for more)

County Commission Gives Up Fight On $900,000 In Discretionary Funds

County Commission members have given up the fight for the annual $900,000 in discretionary funds. Commission Chairman Chester Bankston said there was not enough money available after requests from a number of agencies and departments were cut to balance the budget without a tax increase. Commissioner Sabrena Smedley said the fact that commissioners can no longer allot the ... (click for more)

Bridge Repair Over 12th Street To Cause Temporary Lane Closure On US 27

While investigating a pothole in the bridge on U.S. 27 North over 12 th Street in the construction zone, crews discovered a potential weak spot in the bridge deck that could over time result in more damage to the bridge deck.  For the safety of the traveling public, the outside lane in this area will be closed until the contractor makes necessary repairs, TDOT officials ... (click for more)

Hensley Succeeds Henry As Soddy-Daisy Athletic Director

Soddy-Daisy baseball coach Jared Hensley has added a new role to his duties. Hensley, who has coached the baseball Trojans for eight years with a 177-111 record and state tournament appearances in 2011 and 2015, is the school’s new athletic director. Hensley takes over for Steve Henry, now the school’s principal. “With coach Henry now the man in charge at our school,” ... (click for more)

Unbeaten Fairyland Clinches Red Division Swim Title

Members of the Calhoun swim team were set and ready to compete on the pool deck at the Fairyland Club Monday night, but they never got wet as the meet was postponed by lighting, thunder and the overall threat of stormy weather. They made the long trip back about 24 hours later and the second time around wasn’t nearly as productive as 21 less swimmers made the trip to the top ... (click for more)