Medical Marijuana & Epilepsy

Historical use of cannabis and epilepsy treatments

“Indian hemp, when pure and administered carefully, is one of the most valuable medicines we possess.” —Queen Victoria’s personal physician1

The medical marijuana debate has been refueled after the reality television show “Weed Wars” aired an episode about a father who turns to medical marijuana to cure his son’s seizures. Here is ‘s a clip from the show…

“It’s what they call a tincture. It’s a vegetable glycerine, so it’s very sweet. This might work, because I’m not trying to get my son high, I’m trying to cure my son’s seizures.”

Five-year-old Jayden has Dravet’s Syndrome, an extreme form of epilepsy, which has bought on hour-long seizures since he was a few months old. Traditional medication has provided little or no relief for him. So his father turned to Harborside Health Center, a medical marijuana dispensary in Oakland.

The San Francisco Chronicle explains…

“…the staff recommends treating Jayden with a tincture containing a high level of cannabidiol (CBD), a health-restoring compound in cannabis that has been shown to help control convulsions, and low amounts of [tetrahydrocannabinol] (THC), the psychoactive agent found in marijuana.”

The creators of Weed Wars, Steve and Andrew DeAngelo, explain on MSNBC – they hope the series will help people see why they believe medical marijuana helps both the patients and the community.

“We’re trying to show people that cannabis can be distributed to patients who legitimately need it in a way that brings benefits to community and not harms. You know, in addition to helping our 94,000 patients, we’ve also created 80 well-paying jobs in the city of Oakland and another 40 in the city of San Jose. And last year, we generated over three million dollars in tax revenue…”

But others are still concerned. On The O’Reilly Factor, Bill O’Reilly tells the DeAngelos why he thinks – no.

Bill O’Reilly:”Many people in California submit their medical sheets and I’m sure you’ve seen this, that they use marijuana for anxiety. Right, anxiety?
Steve and Andrew DeAngelo: “Yep, that’s true. It’s common, absolutely true.”
Bill O’Reilly: “Forgive me for being cynical, but all human beings have anxiety, so that means that every person on earth could get a medical marijuana card.”

But the DeAngelo’s say – a person who wants relief from anxiety can be prescribed other medications, like Valium, which can have much worse side effects than marijuana.

The use of cannabis (marijuana) for medical purposes dates back almost five millennia. Western medicine publicly advocated marijuana’s medicinal properties in the mid-1800s; by the beginning of the 20th century, numerous articles in the medical literature recommended its use for a variety of disorders, including multiple neurologic conditions. The compound was available “over the counter” in pharmacies across the United States at that time.2 Cannabis remained on US formularies until 1941. It was removed only after Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which severely hampered physicians from prescribing it.2 Currently in the United States, the drug is classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, thus criminalizing the use of medical marijuana for Americans.

Joseph I. Sirven, MD and Anne T. Berg, PhD