In July 2013 new parents Tracy and Josh Ryan received the devastating news that their 7-month-old baby Sophie had an inoperable brain tumor. The doctors prescribed chemotherapy as the only course of treatment, but could not guarantee it would work. Tracy Ryan felt intuitively that western medicine alone would not be enough to save her daughter. After intensive research, the Ryans began Sophie on a regimen of medicinal cannabis oils, hoping for a miracle.
The most fascinating area of cannabis research revolves around an element of the marijuana plant called Cannabidiol, (CBD) a powerful antioxidant that does not produce the psychotropic effects of THC. CBD shows a unique ability to kill cancer cells in early laboratory tests. In 2003, the United States government filed a patent on CBD as an antioxidant and neuroprotectant useful in the treatment of disease. Yet this same government continues to classify marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug with “no currently accepted medical use,” preventing doctors from studying it. The government’s hypocritical position on CBD leaves patients like Sophie in unchartered waters, as they experimentally use an unregulated medicine that may be saving their lives.
In “Weed the People,” filmmakers Abby Epstein and Ricki Lake take an unflinching look at the underground world of herbal medicine, where patients become experts on their own conditions and spend thousands of dollars on federally illegal medicines that are concocted in suburban kitchens. Nowhere is this phenomenon more compelling than in the treatment of children, who are ignorant of the stigma of medicinal marijuana and whose parents will stop at nothing to help them. “Weed the People” looks beyond pot-activist propaganda and politics to reveal the legitimate science behind cannabis medicine and the compelling stories of ordinary people whose lives are inescapably caught up in the controversy.