Anslinger disdained Mexican-Americans and African-Americans. He loathed jazz. Modern scholars argue that his demonizing cannabis both justified his position and provided a way for him to gain legal leverage over peoples he despised. The high cost paid by people of color, once he had begun what we now call “the war on drugs,” may not have been an incidental byproduct of his efforts but an unstated goal from the start. His protestations still echo today. Cannabis made people crazy, violent and prone to criminal behavior, Anslinger said.
If there is a Patient Zero in the vernacular cannabis movement, that person is a girl in Colorado named Charlotte Figi. Her seizures began at 3 months, as Ben Jacobson’s had. Doctors diagnosed Dravet syndrome, in her case caused by a spontaneous genetic mutation. By the time she was 5, she was wheelchair-bound, receiving sustenance through a feeding tube, seizing about 350 times per week, and on several occasions she had to be shocked back to life after her heart stopped. Doctors once recommended a medically induced coma just so her body could rest.
By MOISES VELASQUEZ-MANOFF MAY 14, 2019
W hen Catherine Jacobson first heard about the promise of cannabis, she was at wits’ end. Her 3-year-old son, Ben, had suffered from epileptic seizures since he was 3 months old, a result of a brain malformation called polymicrogyria. Over the years, Jacobson and her husband, Aaron, have tried giving him at least 16 different drugs, but none provided lasting relief. They lived with the grim prognosis that their son — whose cognitive abilities never advanced beyond those of a 1-year-old — would likely continue to endure seizures until the cumulative brain injuries led to his death.
How one molecule from the cannabis plant came to be seen as a therapeutic cure-all.
Does it, though? The question of what pure CBD (without THC) has been proven to treat is genuinely difficult to answer. Much of the peer-reviewed research looks at CBD as a medicinal drug or includes cannabis in the study. In a review of 79 randomized clinical trials (RCTS) of cannabinoids for the below indications, the authors found moderate-quality evidence for cannabinoid use for the treatment of chronic pain and spasticity, and only low quality evidence for improvements in vomiting resulting from chemotherapy, weight gain in HIV infection, sleep disorders and Tourette syndrome. But the study was limited because it included multiple cannabinoids that were evaluated at different doses by different routes, with many products containing THC.
Before we go any deeper, let’s cover the basics. I mentioned marijuana above, and that plant does have more than 100 different compounds within it called cannabinoids. Its primary component is THC, which has the psychotropic properties that give users the feeling of being “high.” CBD is the second-most prevalent component, and does not have this same effect.
On the other hand, a review that included 83 studies (40 of them RCTs) involving over 3,000 people with various mental health conditions found that there was “scarce evidence” to show that cannabinoids improved depression or anxiety disorders, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, Tourette syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder or psychosis.
The FDA is investigating reports of CBD containing such dangerous contaminants as unhealthy levels of heavy metals (including lead), pesticides, bacteria and fungi. Law enforcement agencies found that 128 samples out of more than 350 tested by government labs in nine states had synthetic marijuana in products being sold as CBD.
The truth is unforgiving. The studies around pure CBD—that is, CBD without THC—are limited due to the fact that some are small and inconsistently designed. Jason White, who chairs the World Health Organization Expert Committee on Drug Dependence, told me in an interview that he believes the number of randomized control trials (RCTS) specific to pure CBD is small, likely fewer than 10. Outside of one prescription drug created to treat two rare pediatric seizure disorders, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not evaluated or approved pure CBD for any therapeutic use. This is a thicket of often conflicting claims.