What do Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s disease, and epilepsy have in common? It has now been proven by dozens of doctors and scientists who work every day in labs across the globe that these diseases are often are caused by environmental toxins and a deficiency of cannabinoids in our brains. Our response to pathogens, a bacterium, virus, or other microorganism that can cause disease is what the cause of many conditions. To aid in the growth of the industry and the acceptance of medical marijuana for children and families Demitri Downing, a prosecutor who graduated from the University of Arizona Law School in 1998, created the Marijuana Industry Trade Association (M.I.T.A). He left his position as a Government Relations Specialist to join the movement, Dr. Judy Mikovits, Ph.D. in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry from George Washington University has been studying the effects on non-cannabis related plants on humans for over thirty-five years. Mikovits worked with Francis Ruscetti at the National Cancer Institute in Maryland during the 1980s. She then completed a joint Ph.D. program with Ruscetti and remained in his lab as a postdoctoral researcher. Her work with Ruscetti included studies of several retroviruses and their interactions with the immune system. Dr. Mikovits has in recent years, done research on the effects of cannabis on humans and how it can be used to treat diseases. As the keynote speaker at the M.I.T.A. monthly meeting at the Saguaro Hotel in Scottsdale in June of 2017 on the importance of current research on THC for treating many of these modern-day diseases, she explained the need for even more research and more importantly open minds about cannabis treatment for patients. But more importantly for the lives of children and families, the lines of communication must be opened with the Arizona legislators in a bi-partisan manner. Her goal at this meeting was to inform the attendees on this timely research and to take medicine away from the government and give it back to the doctors. She gave extensive and definitive proof that cannabis is an effective medicine for treating these and many other diseases.
Attending this meeting was Mark Cardenas, Democrat, and Kevin Payne, Republican both legislators in the Arizona House of Representatives. Payne who represents his constituents in District 21 was previously chairman of the Republican Party in that district. Previous to his being elected he was in the IT field, working for Atlas, an Arizona based company. Because medical marijuana is already legal in Arizona, Payne would like to see the expansion of its use for other diseases such as epilepsy and autism. He is a strong advocate for families who struggle with illnesses and will fight for the right for them to utilize a medication that has already been proven to help. Mark Cardenas is a Democratic member of the Arizona House of Representatives, serving since 2013. Before serving in the legislature, Cardenas was a soldier and an accountant. They will both need registered voters to support them in the next elections so they can continue the work of the people.
But, the most effective way to understand the need to support medical cannabis is to learn from mothers of children with autism and epilepsy. Autism was extremely rare in the past, but currently 1 in 42 children is afflicted with this disease in the United States. Because of the need for increased awareness, the company San Social, a Scottsdale Branding Agency, which was started a year and a half ago, partnered with M.I.T.A to produce a youtube video showcasing mothers with their children who have been helped significantly by the use of medical marijuana. Owner Crystal Sipien with partner Adam Alcober realized the stigma and skepticism regarding the use of medical marijuana for cancer patients, but specifically children with autism. Featured in this video entitled “Cannabis Autism Campaign #KnowsideAffects” was Dr. Cindy Schneider, the Medical Director of C.A.R.E (Center for Autism Research and Education) and parents of children afflicted with the often-heartbreaking diseases of autism and epilepsy. Despite the fact that families spend on average 3.2 million dollars over a lifetime on medications, many of these children and families have a lowered quality of life. However, with the use of medical marijuana many of these patients have their anxiety levels reduced and seizures decreased significantly. One of these children, Mitchell Helt suffered with autism for the majority of his life. But at the age of 15, his mother Lisa Helt, started her son on medical marijuana and the results were life changing for mother and son alike. In the video, it is clear that Mitchell, now 21, is an entirely different person. His quality of life, as well as his mother Lisa’s has never been higher.
Jennifer Welton’s son Zander was diagnosed at nine months old with epilepsy. Like many children with this devastating disease the doctors started him on medications such as Haldol and subjected him to numerous invasive brain surgeries. Mother and son alike had no quality of life. After years of abuse by medication, Zander passed away, never knowing what it was like to have a normal childhood or life.
A particularly hopeful story is that of Logan Simpson, son of Brandy Williams and Shaun Simpson. Logan was diagnosed with severe autism at the age of three in February 2013. He was given several medications to treat the disorder such as Risperidone (Risperdal) for aggression which is simply a side effect of autism and therefore did not address the disease directly. Some side effects of this drug, such as sudden, often jerky, involuntary motions of the head, neck, arms, body, or eyes are the very symptoms parents like Brandy are dealing with on a day-to-day basis. They also prescribed a helmet due to the fact that Logan was banging his head on walls and doors 75 to 150 times a day. He would not allow mom or anyone to dress him and once he was dressed he would rip his clothes off no matter where they were. He knocked his own two front teeth out. He head butted a brick patio and would have melt downs that could last as long as three hours. It was impossible for the family to take him on outings of any kind. He was non-verbal and could only approximate a portion of a word, but then he would regress and they would never hear the word again. He had massive anxiety and rage. They would get a “happy Logan” but it would never last long. They were a very isolated family. Brandy was often unable to go to medical appointments for herself because Logan would never sit still in any public place. He would attack anyone who tried to get him to stay still. He would not walk independently so they had to carry him on their shoulders. He would constantly grind his teeth whether he was asleep or awake. He had abnormal eye movements which is a common symptom of autism. Logan was unable to live what would be considered a normal life as a toddler and then a young boy. Brandy and Shaun tried a CBD isolate for a whole year, but it did not work. He needed the whole plant. They tried inhalers, patches, suckers, but finally when they were able to obtain the whole plant it started working. Logan is given a Premade RSO (Rick Simpson Oil) made by Clear, an oil that he ingests. The first time Logan was given THC it worked within 20 minutes and that night he went to sleep quickly for the first time. He started paying attention to the therapist. He added 180 words his vocabulary in a very short period of time. He normally did not pay attention to things in his environment. He now has the ability to communicate with his own words. Mom gives him 2 micro doses in his cereal in the morning. In the evening, he has a little dot in his “cashew ice cream”. But the bad news and an indication of how difficult it is to purchase this medicine for her son is the state rejected her fingerprints for the caregiver card and she still has not been notified of why that happened. So, they are switching to dad for caregiver status in order to obtain the necessary meds for their child. Brandy and Shaun are strong advocates for cannabis use and makes themselves available for any families who need help. Autism is a debilitating disease and can even cause PTSD in some patients. Whole families suffer because of this disease and the bureaucratic red tape and stigma must be addressed to children like Logan can live a normal, healthy life.
Another story of note of a child afflicted with a prevalent childhood disease is that of Jachin Anthony Meeks, known as JAM, a local 23-year-old rapper in Mesa. JAM was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at the age of two. He did not start speaking until the age of nine when he started writing and rapping. Doctors did not have the information needed to treat this disease so like most children he was given numerous prescriptions over the years during his childhood. Lexapro, Seroquel, Abilify, Risperal, Clonidine, and Zoloft. None of these medications were treating the actual disease, Autism. They are routinely prescribed for patients who are bi-polar, schizophrenic, depressed and therefore were only treating his symptoms, not the root cause of autism. And the side effects of these very powerful drugs are among the following: weight gain; blurred vision; nausea; vomiting; changes in appetite; constipation; drooling; headache; dizziness; drowsiness; feeling tired; anxiety; feeling restless; sleep problems (insomnia); or cold symptoms such as stuffy nose, sneezing, sore throat. These are just a few of the side effects of countless medications prescribed for depression and the like, and are not effective to treat autism. And because Jazhin also has Tourette Syndrome (TS), an inherited disorder of the nervous system, characterized by a variable expression of unwanted movements and noises (tics) doctors prescribed these medications to treat those symptoms, and not the root cause of his day to day life symptoms. Despite his autism, JAM started rapping at the age of nine. This enabled him to begin his journey to inspire others to be positive. He uses edibles on an infrequent basis; the majority of the time he smokes daily, once in the morning, once in noon and once at night. He also drinks THC infused tea. JAM says medical marijuana “awakened me”. He no longer takes any pharmaceuticals other than THC. Marijuana has increased his focus and vocabulary for his rap career. His intention is to inspire others to re-create the energy to be positive. Asberger’s syndrome is often a disease that can inhibit a person’s life on an ongoing basis and JAM no longer feels the need to be isolated. He no longer feels different. Medical marijuana has changed his life in an extremely positive manner. Cannabis has helped thousands of patients to lead fuller lives. These facts and anecdotes prove the increasing benefits of this plant. M.I.T.A continues to grow as a dynamic group of professionals united to build a strong and sustainable future for the cannabis industry in Arizona. They are devoted to defeating negative stigmas about cannabis and working to end prohibition. Families and patients depend on organizations such as M.I.T.A. to foster the ongoing growth of the industry for the future of medicine in the United States.