Sometimes the most powerful stories are the ones you stumble upon without even looking for in the first place. That was the case for Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein, the filmmakers behind Weed the People, a new documentary about families navigating the cannabis world in an effort to treat their cancer-stricken children.

“This documentary came to life from a very organic and personal place,” Epstein tells High Times.

Lake was trying to help a sick 7-year-old girl who had become a superfan of hers after watching Lake on the TV show Dancing with the Stars. Lake researched a variety of integrative therapies to help the young girl get through her brutal chemotherapy regime. Ultimately, she discovered studies about the anti-tumoral properties of CBD and THC.

“Next thing I knew, Ricki called me and said she was taking the girl on a plane up to Mendocino, California, to meet a cannabis physician,” Epstein recalls.

Weed the People Chronicles Families Searching For Cannabis Cancer Treatments

Courtesy of Weed the People

Lake and Epstein had previously collaborated on The Business of Being Born, a critically acclaimed documentary about the American health care system and childbirth. This time around, there was no set plan— just a strong hunch that they could be on to something.

“We just started filming on instinct, having no idea where the story was heading,” Epstein says.

Now, more than six years later, they’ve produced Weed the People, which takes a deeply intimate look into the struggles families face as they seek treatment for some of the most vicious and unforgiving illnesses.

The documentary follows five families with their own distinct stories and life experiences. What unites them is their common quest for cannabis-related cancer treatments in an era when research and access are incredibly limited.

“At the time we started filming in 2013, it was quite a small, underground world,” Epstein explains. “We were extremely selective about the experts. There are a lot of pseudo-experts in the cannabis world, and we attended many conferences throughout the years to identify who were the most ethical and legitimate experts.”

One such expert was Bonni Goldstein, a pediatrician and cannabis clinician who is currently the medical director of Canna-Centers, a California-based medical practice that educates patients about using cannabis for serious and chronic medical conditions. Four out of the five children in Weed the People are Goldstein’s patients.

Weed the People Chronicles Families Searching For Cannabis Cancer Treatments

Courtesy of Weed the People

“Many children with cancer get better with conventional therapy,” Goldstein says. “However, the toll that it takes on their developing brains and bodies is tremendous. Cannabis may help protect them from unwanted side effects while assisting in killing cancer cells.”

Mara Gordon, co-founder of Aunt Zelda’s and Zelda Therapeutics, is another primary expert voice in the documentary. She specializes in the development of cannabis extract treatment protocols for seriously ill patients in California and has presented at many accredited medical conferences worldwide.

“We need more research, but in the meantime, people are dying who may be helped by this plant that has zero instances of overdose in recorded history,” Gordon says. “It is a human rights abuse on a global scale that people aren’t given access to such a simple option as cannabis.”

Gordon adds that “sufficient scientific evidence” exists to justify human trials, and that it’s time for lawmakers and the medical community to stop with prohibition and fear mongering.

“It’s important that parents and physicians know that cannabis is safe as long as it is third-party lab tested to show its purity,” Gordon says. “There is no evidence that children’s IQs are impacted. And let’s be clear, the caustic pharmaceuticals these kids are required to take in order to treat cancers and other diseases can have harmful and lasting side effects.”

One of Gordon’s patients was Sophie Ryan, whose journey is prominently featured in the documentary. In July 2013, Tracy and Josh Ryan learned that their 7-month-old daughter had an inoperable brain tumor. The doctors prescribed chemotherapy as the only course of treatment, but couldn’t guarantee that it would work. In Weed the People, viewers watch as her parents try cannabis oil as an alternative treatment and, ultimately, as a supplement to traditional western medicine.

“Sophie is doing absolutely amazing,” her mom, Tracy Ryan, tells High Times. “Her tumor has a 90 percent survival rate, but an 85 percent recurrence rate, so treatment can go on for years.”

Despite Sophie being on four chemotherapies that should cause hair thinning or loss, and in many cases extreme sickness, she is not experiencing those side effects.

“Sophie’s hair has gotten not only thicker, but a lot longer,” Ryan says. “She basically has no side effects. She might have nausea a couple times a month, but that’s it. Once again, [she’s] leaving her doctors surprised.”

These days, Sophie is just a typical kid, with a few notable exceptions.

“Sophie’s in kindergarten, thriving, and loving life,” says Ryan, who went on to establish CannaKids, which supplies medical cannabis oil tinctures and cannabis products to patients of all ages.

“Sophie speaks with me on stages at conferences across the country in front of sometimes 1,000 people plus, and loves it more than anything I have ever seen,” Ryan says. “We have about as normal a life as we could hope for, all while having a child with a very pesky brain tumor.”

Weed the People Chronicles Families Searching For Cannabis Cancer Treatments

Courtesy of Weed the People

Also featured in the film is AJ Kephart, who began his battle against Stage 4 Osteosarcoma when he was diagnosed at age 14. The cancer ultimately spread from his bones to his lungs, and his prognosis looked dire — until cannabis came into the picture.

“Before we started AJ on cannabis, we were told by his oncologist that he only had a few months to live and to start hospice,” AJ’s mom, Sheila Kephart, says. “My husband and I felt helpless. Then we were introduced to cannabis through Dr. Goldstein, and a miracle happened.”

Before starting cannabis treatment, AJ was in constant pain and on pain pills 24/7.

“We were giving him Oxycodone, Valium, Motrin, and morphine,” Kephart says. “He had lost 13 pounds in a week, and he was running a fever of 104.7 that we could not bring down. When we took him to Dr. Goldstein, she realized that he was in danger and put him on a high dose of cannabis.”

Within three days, AJ’s fever went away. Within a week, he began eating again and was down to taking just one Oxycodone a day. Today, he is cancer-free.

“It was truly a miracle,” Kephart says. “If it had not happened to us, I would never believe AJ’s story. But it did happen to us — I cannot deny the truth of it.”

AJ recently graduated high school and is currently attending Moorpark College in California, where he’s majoring in animation. He is also part of an ongoing study at UCLA.

“AJ has a really big heart, and is always ready to give whatever he has,” Kephart says. “He had to grow up very quickly and be an adult [because of] his illness. He realized at a very young age that material stuff is just stuff — it is friendships and family that are most important to him.”

Weed the People also tells the stories of three additional children battling cancer, one of whom tragically passed away before the film was completed.

The parents of the other two children, Chico Ryder and Cecilia von Harz, could not be reached for comment before this story was published.

“We have to take each situation case by case, but certainly cannabis should be considered as a part of treatment,” Goldstein says. “The film’s most important takeaway is that cannabis cannot continue to be a Schedule I drug — this prohibits desperately needed research. Additionally, we must stop believing the propaganda that it is dangerous. After 11 years of being a medical cannabis pediatrician, I can state without any hesitation that it is safe to use as medicine.”

The post Weed the People Chronicles Families Searching For Cannabis Cancer Treatments appeared first on High Times.

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1. What is CBD? What is CBD Oil?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a naturally occurring constituent of industrial hemp/cannabis. Its formula is C21H30O2 and it has a molecular mass of 314.4636. It is the most abundant non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis, and is being scientifically investigated for various reasons.

CBD oil is a cannabis oil (whether derived from marijuana or industrial hemp, as the word cannabis is the latin genus name for both) that has significant amounts of cannabidiol (CBD) contained within it. Our CBD products and extracts are derived from industrial hemp, so they could be considered CBD-rich hemp oil, hemp derived CBD oil, CBD-rich cannabis oil, or plainly “hemp extracts” since they typically contain much more than just CBD. Again, cannabis doesn’t mean marijuana, but is the genus name, and general umbrella term which all forms of marijuana and hemp fall under. The form of cannabis we use for our CBD and hemp extracts is industrial hemp; we do not sell marijuana.

2. If a hemp extract is 40% cannabinoids, what’s the other 60%? What’s in your hemp extracts besides the naturally occurring cannabinoids?

Our Kentucky hemp extracts contain over 80 different phyto-cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD), CBC, CBG, CBN, etc.. In addition to the cannabinoids naturally present in our agricultural hemp extracts, there are also many other types of natural molecules and phyto-chemical compounds such as amino acids, carbohydrates, vitamins (including B1, B2, B6, D), fatty acids (including omega 3 & 6), trace minerals (including iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium, potassium), beta-carotene, chlorophyll, flavanoids, ketones, nitrogenous compounds, alkanes, glycosides, pigments, water, and terpenes. The most common terpenes in our hemp extracts are Myrcene, Beta-caryophyllene, Terpinolene, Linalool, alpha-Pinene, beta-Pinene, Nerolidol og Phytol, trans-alpha-Bergamotene, Limonene/ beta-Phellandrene (Co-elution), and alpha-Humulene.

3. What’s the difference between Hemp and Marijuana?

Scientifically, industrial Hemp and Marijuana are the same plant, with a genus and species name of Cannabis Sativa. They have a drastically different genetic profile though. Industrial Hemp is always a strain of Cannabis sativa, while marijuana can be Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, or Cannabis ruderalis. The major difference is how industrial hemp has been bred compared to a marijuana form of Cannabis sativa. organic hemp seedsTypically speaking, industrial hemp is very fibrous, with long strong stalks, and barely has any flowering buds, while a marijuana strain of Cannabis sativa will be smaller, bushier, and full of flowering buds. However, newer industrial hemp varieties in the USA are being bred to have more flowers and higher yields of cannabinoids and terpenes, such as our Kentucky hemp we’re now using!

99% of the time marijuana has a high amount of THC and only a very low amount of CBD. Hemp, on the other hand, naturally has a very high amount of CBD in most instances, and only a trace amount of THC. Fortunately, the cannabinoid profile of hemp is ideal for people looking for benefits from cannabis without the ‘high.’ Hemp is used for making herbal supplements, food, fiber, rope, paper, bricks, oil, natural plastic, and so much more, whereas marijuana is usually used just recreationally, spiritually, and medicinally. The term cannabis oil can refer to either a marijuana or hemp derived oil, since marijuana and hemp are two different forms of cannabis.

In the USA the legal definition of “industrial hemp,” per Section 7606 of the Agricultural Appropriations Act of 2014, is “INDUSTRIAL HEMP — The term ‘‘industrial hemp’’ means the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of such plant, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.”

4. Are hemp derived cannabinoids such as CBD as good as CBD from marijuana?

The short answer is yes. CBD is CBD, whether from marijuana or hemp. Most marijuana has a very low non-psychoactive cannabinoid profile (like CBD, CBC, CBG), so most of the time hemp would be much more preferable for anything besides THC. Marijuana is usually very high in THC (gives people the high) but usually very low in other non-psychoactive cannabinoids.

Nowadays in the USA, many farmers are growing industrial hemp flowers that are just as beautiful, odor-producing, and terpene rich as the best marijuana strains, such as our partnered farmers in Kentucky.

5. Why don’t you source your Hemp and CBD from within Colorado?

colorado growing operationWe feel that the hemp program in Kentucky is more well suited for our company in regards to growing hemp, and that because it’s 100% compliant with Section 7606 of the 2014 Farm Bill (and the 2016 Agricultural Appropriations Act), procuring it from there is perfectly legal at the federal level. Kentucky’s ecology is perfect for hemp just as it is for tobacco. The growing season is longer than in Colorado, and the soil is richer, so the quality of the hemp and the yields are better.

6. What’s the percentage of cannabinoids and CBD in your product?

Our raw extracts have varying percentages of cannabinoid and cannabidiol (CBD) content, the range being 10%-99%. Each product has a unique formulation and uses varying ratios of our extract types. Our CBD Isolate is over 99% pure CBD.

7. What is the best method of use?

For our dietary supplements we can only recommend them for internal consumption. Our CBD isolate is for research purposes only. If you don’t like the flavor of the oil supplements, you can mix with something sweet like apple sauce or honey to cut through the flavor.

8. What’s the ideal serving size for me, and how often should I take it?

There is no easy answer to this. Our starting recommended serving size is 15 drops but we generally recommend experimenting to see what feels best to you. Some prefer 5 drops, some prefer over 50 drops per day.

9. What is the safety of your hemp extracts? Are there negative side effects?

Hemp is considered by many to be generally safe. We’ve never seen or heard of any significant or negative CBD Oil Extractside effects in our years in the industry. That said, we can’t rule them out. Please consult with your physician before using any dietary supplement including Hemp extract supplements.

10. Which of your CBD and hemp products should I get?

As a company who sells various dietary and food supplements, we can’t suggest any of our products for the prevention, treatment or cure of any disease or ailment.

When considering our different dietary hemp products, know that they all come in two strengths. Our Original Hemp blends (Classic Hemp Blend, Hemp Complete, Brainpower oil, & Signature Blend) all have 250+mg of cannabinoids per fluid ounce, and our concentrated blends have 1,500+mg per fluid ounce, six times the potency of our traditional oils. We’ve found that sometimes less is more, but nevertheless, some people like to take very large serving sizes of our hemp extracts.

The main difference between the four Original Blends is the additional herbal ingredients besides hemp. We suggest you research the separate components of each blend to determine which product may be most appealing to add to your dietary regimen. If you know it’s solely the hemp extract that you are looking for, with no additional ingredients, then Classic Hemp Blend or Classic Hemp 6x is what you’re looking for.

For dabbing and vaporizing or for research you can try our CBD Isolate.


11. Why do people use Hemp Extracts and CBD? What are the benefits and uses of CBD?

In accordance with federal regulations we cannot make health claims regarding our dietary supplement products. We can only recommend our products for general wellness.

12. Is a standard hemp seed oil the same as a high-CBD hemp extract?

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Absolutely not. Standard hemp oil, which can be found very cheaply at a grocery store, is a much different product than our CO2 hemp extracts (not from seed). Standard hemp oil is produced by cold pressing the seeds, whereas our hemp extract is a supercritical CO2 extraction of the hemp plant itself, not the seeds. Hemp seed oil is considered to be a great nutritive food, but it doesn’t have the naturally occurring terpenes, cannabinoids and other components that our extracts do have.

13. Do I need to move to Colorado to get your Hemp Extracts and CBD? Where do you ship?

No. We actually source our hemp from Kentucky, as it’s legal to ship across state lines. Many people are under the impression that the only way to acquire hemp extracts and CBD for themselves or a loved one is to move to Colorado or another cannabis-friendly state. Many major news outlets are misinformed and are unfortunately spreading the idea that you can only get CBD oil in the states where medical marijuana has been legalized. This is simply not the case though. Because our extracts comes from hemp instead of marijuana, we can and do ship to all fifty states, and no medical marijuana card is needed. There are some exceptions, like with Indiana, Missouri and South Dakota we can’t sell our concentrated products due to state legislation.

We also ship to Japan, Australia, the EU, Switzerland, and Brazil. For all EU orders contact our exclusive distributor thereCannawell.

14. Is your Hemp Extract Oil similar to Rick Simpson Hemp Oil?

Not quite. Ours are from hemp and RSHO is usually using marijuana, a different form of cannabis than industrial hemp. Our industrial hemp extracts are more standardized and will usually have a much higher content of non-psychoactive cannabinoids like CBD than one produced through the Rick Simpson method. And oils produced through his method will usually have a much higher THC content, as it’s typically marijuana that is used for RSHO.†

Generally speaking, most marijuana producers and sellers (especially on the black market) don’t test for contaminants (metals, pesticides, bacteria, etc.). Rick Simpson Hemp Oil is actually more a method of extraction than it is a specific product. People use the Rick Simpson method with hundreds of different strains of marijuana, so the THC, CBD and other cannabinoid content of the final oil is always varying greatly, depending on the cannabis the consumers are acquiring. Usually what’s used for Rick Simpson oil is a strain with an inferior CBD content (and high THC), because that’s what the vast amount of marijuana is nowadays.

15. Where do you source your hemp and CBD from?

We have partners in Kentucky who grew a dedicated plot for us this year (2016) which is being used in our products now. mjna message boardWe also currently source from Europe but we’ll be changing that soon.

16. What kind of testing/analysis is performed on your products?

We have an industry leading quality control system, and we have third party laboratories analyze all of our hemp extracts and our final products for cannabinoid potency, heavy metals, bacterial and microbial life, mycotoxins (fungus), and pesticides.

17. What is CO2 extraction? What’s the difference between subcritical and supercritical CO2 extractions?

CO2 extraction is an extraction process that uses pressurized carbon dioxide to extract phyto-chemicals (such as CBD, CBG, or terpenes, flavonoids, etc.) from a plant. CO2 at certain temperatures and pressures acts like a solvent, without the dangers of actually being one. It is the most expensive extraction method, and is widely considered the most effective and safest plant extraction method in the world.

Many hemp and CBD companies boast about their supercritical CO2 extractions, but that’s actually only one (and perhaps an inferior) method of using a CO2 extraction machine. There are also subcritical CO2 extractions, and ‘mid-critical’, a general range between subcritical and supercritical. Subcritical (low temp, low pressure) CO2 extractions take more time and produce smaller yields than super-critical, but they retain the essential oils, terpenes, and other sensitive chemicals within the plant. Supercritical, on the other hand, is a high pressure and high temperature process that damages most terpenes and heat sensitive chemicals, but can extract much larger molecules such as lipids (omega 3 and 6), chlorophyll, and waxes. A truly full-spectrum CO2 extract includes first performing a subcritical extraction, separating the extracted oil, and then extracting the same plant material using supercritical pressure, and then homogenizing both oil extracts into one. In the essential oil industry, an extract made using this specific process is referred to as a CO2 Total.

18. What is the endocannabinoid system (ECS)?

“The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a group of endogenous cannabinoid receptors located in the mammalian brain and throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems, consisting of neuromodulatory lipids and their receptors.” Wikipedia

There are two main types of receptors in the ECS, CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are primarily located in the central nervous system and brains of mammals, and CB2 are generally found in the peripheral nervous system. There are two main cannabinoids mammals produce- 2AG and Anandamide (named after the Sanskrit term “ananda” which translates to “peace”).

For hundreds of millions of years every vertebrate on Earth has been equipped with this ECS, a crucial system in the body, and it has been known about in the scientific and medical communities since the 1980’s. However, it’s still not taught about in most medical schools.