Mommie Dearest: Moms & The Benefits Of Medical Marijuana For Sick Children

In their new documentary, “Weed The People,” filmmakers Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein profile the story of Sophie Ryan, who at seven months, was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. After much research and investigation, Sophie’s parents turned to medicinal cannabis oil, and the results were almost unbelieveable — the treatment was shrinking Sophie’s tumor. “Weed The People” — which will be out next year — looks at Sophie’s story, as well as the growing industry of cannabis medicine and the impact it’s having in the lives of patients. And Sophie is not alone. There are many patients — many of them children — that are benefiting from using cannabis oil or medical marijuana to treat everything from cancer to seizures.

I spoke with filmmaker Abby Epstein about the choice to highlight the stories and struggles of children in particular in “Weed The People.” She told me that one of the reasons “is because the pediatric cancer cases tend to erase the pot stigma for people. It’s easy to accuse an adult patient of liking their medicine too much — but when you see how the cannabis can help these sick children, the issues people have with recreational marijuana doesn’t come into play.”

And Epstein stressed that parents aren’t reaching these decisions lightly. “It’s important to understand that parents who treat their children legally or illegally with cannabis are looking at both the curative and palliative aspects of the plant,” she said. “Some of these children have exhausted their options in Western medicine so the cannabis can be a last ray of hope. It gives parents peace that they are doing everything possible to heal their children.”

Epstein isn’t alone in her thoughts. Last week, Whoopi Goldberg, co-host of ABC’s “The View,” spoke passionately about why medicinal marijuana should not be stigmatized or kept illegal. Whoopi interviewed Paige Figi, a mom whose daughter Charlotte depends on cannabis oil to treat debilitating seizures. It is Charlotte’s story, among others, that’s fueling “Charlotte’s Web Medical Hemp Act of 2014,” a House bill that would legalize medical marijuana on a federal level. Speaking about the Bill she hopes to help get passed, Figi says, “It’s so painful to see people waiting and dying.” And yet that’s just what’s happening as patients can’t legally access the medicine they need.

Currently, 23 states, along with Washington DC, have legalized medical marijuana, with many more states having legislation or ballot measures to legalize it on the table. Yet, medical marijuana is still not legal everywhere, and certainly not at the federal level, leaving many patients deprived of medicine that can very well cure or heal them. It also leaves parents, who only want to see their children healthy, in a difficult, and potentially illegal, situation. When discussing why she feels so strongly about access to medical marijuana, Whoopi — who at times was close to tears — called on other parents to ask what they would do if they knew there was medicine that could help their children.

For those hoping to fully legalize medical marijuana on a federal level, targeting the hearts and minds of parents seems crucial. After all, what parent wouldn’t do everything they could if their child was sick or hurting? A lot of the advocacy relies on stories of families where parents were known to be anti-drugs, but then realized how beneficial cannabis oil could be, for instance. And, this tactic could be working. According to a a number of national polls, more people than not are in favor of medical marijuana. It remains to be seen if medical marijuana will ever be federally legalized. Until then, there are a host of parents who will continue to fight for their right to heal their children.

It should be noted that this piece is specifically about medical marijuana. Although, that doesn’t mean that people don’t count on the parenting angle when it comes to either supporting or damning recreational use.