Last week a lengthy report on an apparently fraudulent and dangerous medical cannabis-related product was brought to my attention. It is not a pleasure to read – always the case when we come across bad news – but this news is particularly distasteful, as it comes from my own field of specialty, expertise and passion.
It tells of not only shady business dealings and bad actors intent on making a buck, regardless of any danger they may be creating for others, but also of significant harm caused to innocent people by the sale of a dangerous product being marketed as a healing substance with which I am extremely familiar, cannabidiol (CBD) oil. As a result, I am concerned that this report will be incorrectly interpreted as meaning CBD oil is dangerous, leading people to fear a substance that could, in reality, vastly improve their lives.
Study after study now confirm the anecdotal evidence that's been presented by many users. CBD oil has proven remarkably beneficial to untold numbers of people. It is probably most widely known, thanks to CNN's "Weed" documentaries with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, as a treatment for young children suffering from Dravet Syndrome, a particularly vicious form of epilepsy that causes these kids to suffer from nearly constant seizures and prevents their families from having any semblance of a normal, joyful life with their child.
In addition, people suffering from Parkinson's, ALS, multiple sclerosis, cancer, migraines, inflammatory conditions, GI disorders and PTSD, among other conditions, are finding relief with CBD oil. Cannabis extracts containing varying concentrations of other cannabinoids such as THC, CBC and CBN are being widely studied and used, as well.
When parents who learn of these healing properties purchase CBD oil for their suffering children they often put themselves at great risk in order to do so. In the US, 23 states and DC have legalized medical marijuana to some extent but in some cases the laws are so restrictive that people must either secretly circumvent "the system" or move to a state with more flexible rules in order to get what they need.
As these laws change, regulations pertaining to medical cannabis substances are shifting and developing. As a result, grow operations and processing facilities are producing products that range from top quality, pharmaceutical-grade extracts to products with questionable levels of cannabinoids and, as we see in this report, contaminated material that has damaging effects to health. In the case of this product, samples of the product tested by analytical labs – after some patients had already learned the hard way that it was poisonous – were found to be contaminated with heavy metals and industrial solvents, "a smorgasbord of contaminants," and were thus not only dangerous but potentially deadly. The report mentions a 21-month-old with seizures and an 8-year-old undergoing chemotherapy for leukemia among those who were hospitalized for extreme gastrointestinal problems after using the product.
Personally, I am not a huge fan of government regulations, in general. I would prefer that the free market be allowed to work when it comes to cannabis extracts, as with any other product or service. Good products, good management and honest dealings would lead to successful companies while those with a lack of ethics and poor-quality product like the ones mentioned in the report would fail. But it is very clear that cannabis is going to be regulated like alcohol once prohibition is lifted and that medicinal cannabis is eventually going to be regulated similar to pharmaceutical drugs.
As Martin A. Lee, author of the book Smoke Signals, stated, "legitimacy can only be earned by offering high quality products at reasonable prices." He expressed concern that disreputable and dangerous activities "could discredit the entire grassroots cannabis community and the industry it has spawned – from mom-and-pop organic growers and cannabis oil artisans to well-heeled start-ups. Drug war defenders doubtless will revel in any fact or rumor suggesting that an ethically challenged cabal has been swindling stockholders and peddling poisonous, THC-laden products in all 50 states."
Now, the vast majority of my colleagues involved in the medical cannabis field are honest people, many of whom work very hard to make the healing properties of cannabis safely and affordably available to others. As in any business, there are and will remain the few "bad apples," those who got into the business with one goal: Make piles of money, at any cost, from anyone, without regard to consequences to consumers or investors. While it is valuable to point out bad players in order to stop harm and hopefully prevent future bad outcomes, the most benefit can come from learning from mistakes made so we can continue to build a healthful and helpful industry. I am fortunate to be working with individuals who are on the "right side" of the business when it comes to ethics, expertise, skills and passion to build a solution to the very problem this report enunciates.
John Knapp is a pioneer in the legal cannabis industry and has consulted in five states, Canada and South America on industry matters. He is a sought-after speaker and has been interviewed by or featured in numerous newspapers and cannabis publications. John is the founder of Colorado-based Good Meds Network and Illinois-based Third Wave Enterprises, both medical-grade cannabis businesses, as well as of Gro|Quip, a gardening equipment distributor, and is Senior Marijuana Design Engineer for Quantum 9 Consulting.