L.A. Orders Nonprofit that Treats Sick Kids with Cannabis Extract to Shut Down

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Take that, Dr. Sanjay Gupta!

The Los Angeles city attorney has told Realm of Caring it does not fit under the city’s year-old medical marijuana ordinance and must close. The group, cited last August for its cannabis treatment of child epilepsy by Gupta in a laudatory CNN documentary, has an outpost in the city.

Most alleged dispensaries in the city—nobody really knows their count—are being shut down under Proposition D (pdf) for various reasons, most prominently being they had to have been around since 2006.

Realm of Caring is new, too new, but already well known from the CNN publicity that rocketed the story into the public consciousness. The hour-long special report included a segment on Charlotte Figi, a 5-year-old from Colorado Springs, Colorado, suffering from a nasty form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome.

Her parents said she experienced hundreds of seizures a day and no medication helped. The doctors contemplated putting her in a coma to keep her alive. Her father, a veteran who spent time in Afghanistan, suggested trying a potent cannabis extract called Cannabidiol (CBD), which lacks much of the intoxicating THC and the results were said to be remarkable.

After dad scored the drug from a Colorado family in the medical marijuana business, the Stanley Brothers, Charlotte’s seizures declined to one a week. The five brothers have been legally operating greenhouses, labs and dispensaries since 2008, and providing cancer sufferers with cannabis-based oil. Charlotte was their first epilepsy patient and they started Realm of Caring in 2012.

Their operation in Los Angeles is modest, according to the San Gabriel Tribune. They do some growing and outreach to people interested in acquiring what has come to be known as “Charlotte’s Web.” Ray Mirzabegian, executive director of Realm of Caring California, told the newspaper their leaving would cost them a few bucks, but not have an impact on their patients. The group, which operates here and in Colorado, treats 26 families locally and has 2,000 on a waiting list between the two states.

The Stanley Brothers are mucking around in science that the government has been reluctant to allow, much less encourage. Possession and sale of marijuana are still federal felonies, despite the legalization movement picking up steam in the states.

Very little sanctioned cannabis research of any value happens in the United States. Consequently, not much is known about CBD and other potential cannabis-based drugs.

But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made an exception for sufferers of Dravet Syndrome last November and granted GW Pharmaceuticals an “orphan drug” designation for Epidiolex, a product with Cannabidiol as its active ingredient.

It can only be used for treatment of the syndrome. The FDA is letting physicians treat approximately 125 children with Epidiolex immediately, according to Medscape. The Dravet Syndrome Foundation says the experimental treatment is free for the first three months, and if it works for a patient, GW can charge for them for more.

GW is limited in what it can charge, because, since the drug is not yet approved by the FDA, the pharmaceutical cannot make a profit. But eventually it will.

In the meantime, a more grass-rootsy group of entrepreneurs will fill some of the demand. Just not in L.A.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Group Using Cannabis Oil to Treat Children’s Seizures Told to Shut Down by L.A. City Attorney (by Jason Henry, San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

Realm of Caring Comes to California (by Fred Gardner, O’Shaughnessy’s)

FDA Moves Forward with Marijuana-Based Drug to Fight Childhood Epilepsy (by Matt Ferner, Huffington Post)

100 L.A. Pot Shops Closed, Many More May Have Opened (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

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