Parents in California are suing the county after they temporarily lost custody of their daughter for treating her epilepsy with CBD oil.
The Story of Ali Selva
7-year-old Ali Selva has suffered with seizures sporadically throughout her life, starting from when she was just ten months old. She was prescribed the epilepsy medication Keppra in 2016 in an attempt to control her seizures, after experiencing a particularly violent seizure while at the beach with her family. Although Keppra helped to reduce her seizures, Ali was one of the unlucky 1-in-5 patients that experience violent mood swings as a side effect of the drug. These mood swings became so volatile that they posed a serious risk to Ali and others, so her parents looked into alternative treatments to alleviate their daughter’s seizures. After extensive research, Ali’s parents turned to CBD to try and treat their daughter’s illness in the Summer of 2017. By late October, Ali’s seizures had completely stopped – but shortly after Ali was taken away from her family by police and social workers, who claimed that her parent’s choice to take her off her prescribed medication in favor of CBD was a risk to her health and wellbeing.
Luckily, Ali and her family were not separated for long. Ali was reunited with her family after being separated from them for four nights, where her parents could only see her during supervised visits. However, Ali would only be returned to her family on the condition that they put her back on Keppra, the controversial drug that continues to divide the medical community.
Time for Federal Law to change?
Although medical cannabis has been legal in California since 1999 (with recreational weed usage legalized in 2016), it is still illegal under federal law under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, which means that residents in states where it is legal can be still charged with a federal crime. Luckily, Ali’s case was dismissed and all conditions were dropped in December, but that hasn’t stopped Ali’s family seeking retribution by trying to sue the county after they claimed that social services falsified court documents related to Ali’s case.
In a world where anti-vaxxers are given a larger platform to promote dangerous pseudo-science, it’s understandable why there is still a lot of hesitation from the medical community about the effectiveness of ‘holistic medicine’ and the power of supplements like CBD. Although medical cannabis is becoming increasingly legalized, large-scale definitive clinical trials on the drug’s effectiveness as a medical treatment have yet to be conducted. However, The National Institute on Drug Abuse have found CBD to have considerable anti-seizure, anti-inflammatory, anti-psychotic, anti-tumor and anti-anxiety properties, as well as being an effective analgesic.
2018 could be the year the stigma dies
The real problem lies in the lingering stigma around cannabis in the medical community and cynicism over its ability to work as a highly effective medical treatment, as well as the over-prescription of potentially harmful prescription drugs in the US. Thankfully in June, the epilepsy drug Epidiolex from UK-based company GW Pharmaceuticals became the first FDA approved cannabis-derived medicine available on the market. Hopefully this will spur on American pharmaceutical companies to fight for CBD and cannabis-based medicines, as the legalization of cannabis gains traction across the country.