Before recreational cannabis was on the map, medical cannabis led the industry. Despite the numerous anecdotal accounts of cannabis’ success as a medicine, US research has been unable to support these findings. Research has not yet proven the efficacy of cannabis in the United States, but only because research has been at a standstill. Due to cannabis’ Schedule I classification, it is deemed as having no accepted medical use, which limits the abilities for scientists to study the highly regulated drug. One organization, CannaKids, is at the forefront of groundbreaking research surrounding cannabis and the treatment of life threatening diseases.
In 2016, the DEA declared that it would allow researchers and drug companies to grow medical grade cannabis at other facilities besides the sole facility that has been used in the past. This would allow researchers greater access to the plant and get rid of the monopoly the DEA has had over cannabis research. CannaKids is currently going through the processes to get licenses and approval for their research. While nothing is set in stone, they hope to begin clinical trials as soon as possible. They will be partnering with a few highly reputable hospitals in California to see the studies through.
The work that CannaKids has done was inspired by one mom’s quest to help her daughter. Tracy Ryan, the founder of CannaKids, is very open about how her own family struggles and how they’ve influenced the creation of her organization. In 2013, at 8 and a half months old, Tracy’s daughter Sophie was diagnosed with an Optic Pathway Glioma brain tumor. Tracy and her husband were also told that due to the tumor, Sophie would go blind in her left eye and her right eye would most likely be compromised if not also completely blind. They were told that chemo would not get rid of the tumor, but had hope that it would stop the growth. They were also told the tumors had an 85 percent recurrence rate with a 90 percent survival rate. But the Ryan family wanted more for Sophie than to simply stop the growth, and wanted to do all they could save Sophie’s vision.
They created a Facebook page called “Prayers for Sophie” and were connected with Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein, filmmakers working on a documentary about cannabis oil and its effects on pediatric cancer patients. Cannabis oil, as a supplemental medicine to her chemotherapy, healed Sophie in many unexpected ways. After 13 months of chemotherapy and cannabis oil, Sophie visited a doctor, who declared that her eyesight was that of a typical two years old. Beyond that, her tumor had shrunk by 85 to 90 percent, results that would not have been attained with chemotherapy alone. Sophie has had some ups and downs with her tumor, but her body continues to perform miracles that her medical team can only attribute to the oils. Tracy describes the journey her family went through as being instrumental in the creation of the CannaKids organization.
CannaKids has worked to address adult and pediatric diseases alike, but their organization’s primary research focus is on pediatric diseases. One of the main reasons they seek to learn more about diseases affecting children is due to the limited amount of resources provided by the government for such research. In regards to cancer, less than four percent of funds in the United States go towards pediatrics. CannaKids plans to partner with multiple hospitals to conduct research on terminal illnesses. There will be one hospital specifically where pediatrics will be handled.
Through the use of cannabis, the trials are intended to address diseases such as cancer, fibromyalgia, end of life treatment and chemotherapy. The clinical trials will be double blind, meaning that neither the researchers nor the patients will know who is receiving a cannabis treatment and who is receiving a placebo. The team at CannaKids is confident that once clinical trials have begun, the results will speak for themselves and mirror research done in other countries. They also hope to discover other potential benefits of cannabis treatment besides pain alleviation. The clinical trials have yet to begin, but already CannaKids is helping patients around the world.
Despite being limited in the ability to only treat patients within the state of California, CannaKids has a team of healthcare professionals that consult on cannabis products and dosing in treating diseases. Nurses are able to provide recommendations and guidance on cannabis products and will aid in creating dosing protocols on an individual basis. Besides working directly with families, nurses are also open to engaging with the primary physician. Such efforts demonstrate one of the main goals of the organization—to personalize the approach to cannabis treatment, instead of generalized, blanket treatments.
In this endeavor, CannaKids is working with researchers in Israel. Part of the research being conducted pertains to how individual strains and their properties affect diseases differently. While there are some strains that may be effective at treating breast cancer, those strains may not be as effective in the treatment of brain cancer. Researchers are hoping to determine which cannabinoids and terpenes are most effective at treating specific illnesses. CannaKids is hoping, through such research, to better understand and provide personalized treatment to whoever needs it.
CannaKids is an organization that aims to be at the forefront of quantitative cannabis research within the United States. Thus far, anecdotal evidence has provided much support for cannabis as a medicine, but it is through clinical trials that scientists will be unable to deny the potential of cannabis as a treatment for life threatening diseases. The results of the endeavors undertaken by CannaKids may very well be instrumental in changing cannabis’ drug classification, as well as expanding access to the medicine so desperately needed by many.