My younger brother Michael sustained a traumatic brain injury in 1981, when he was just 17. Complications around this injury eventually led to his passing, way before his time. It took me a long time to accept what happened with Mike, to put it into a context that made any sense at all. Years later, there's still a smoldering sense of outrage, and here's why: Looking back, I believe he would probably still be alive today if we had sane cannabis policies. Further, I believe these stupid policies have caused unnecessary suffering in just about every family on earth.
The line of demarcation
In the 1980s, U.S. 41 in northern Wisconsin abruptly narrowed its route through the dairy farms from four lanes to two. That spot was where Mike, returning home from a concert in Green Bay, drove his Opel Manta off the right side of the road. The nose of the car hit a culvert, then it flipped end over end.
Before this happened Mike was a care-free high-school student who liked to play hockey and ride his bike. He was funny, the clown of the family who could always get you to laugh. After, he was grievously injured with a severe skull fracture. Paramedics transported him to the hospital in Green Bay, where he lay comatose for several weeks.
It was touch-and-go; one shivering cold morning they called us to come quick, and the hospital priest gave him his last rites at about 4 a.m. We gathered around his ICU bed, amidst the monitors and IV drips, and talked to him. Held his hand. Imagined him in better days.
It seemed beyond hopeless at times, but his body was strong and after the swelling in his brain subsided, he slowly awoke. It took him a long time to relearn everything: How to breathe, eat, walk and talk. Who he was and how to be alive.
Every little thing was a difficult mountain to climb, but as he came back into himself, he was glad to be among the living. Relieved of social conventions, he let people know this, sometimes in hilarious ways:
By calling his high school English teacher late at night to tell him, “Doug, I’m alive!”
By befriending people, in stores, on the street, in elevators, and asking a short series of personal questions:
- When’s your birthday?
- What’s your middle name?
- Do you smoke pot?
Essential information, right? Once you know those things, you can be best buds.
The third question in particular disarmed and sometimes alarmed people — in those days, weed was still very much underground. But Mike was liberated from caring much about what people thought. He really was just happy to be alive.
But Mike’s head injury was a profound insult for a young man. While his peers were getting educated, pairing up with spouses and launching careers, just living independently was a struggle for him. He knew each moment was truly precious though, and was learning to handle his monumental challenges with grace.
Then, a few years into his second life, he developed epilepsy, and everything became even more difficult. We learned about the whole terrifying condition: The auras that would precede the grand mal; the risk of doing anything alone, like jogging through the park and then falling down on the sidewalk when a seizure struck.
He went through electroshock therapy, and a series of medications. We learned about the necessary tradeoffs: the drowsiness that came with the antispasmodic effects of the pharmaceuticals; the toxic side-effects on his liver and other organs.
These drugs worked for a while, then the dosages had to be increased. These many years later, I am still sad to say, I suspect these drugs killed him. His body weakened, his organs failed and he seizured out. On Christmas night, 1991. At the age of 27.
His passing was tragic and horrible. As we all know, as the years go by you learn to hold on to the best moments and let go of the painful ones. When the memories come up, the first emotion that hits you goes, eventually, from tears to smiles. Time heals all wounds, right? But going on 30 years later, here’s what still pisses me off…
Cannabidiol (CBD) reduces seizure activity in epileptics. It might have saved Mike’s life.
Why was it illegal to stay alive?
I first learned about cannabidiol in 2011, when I was working with a CBD manufacturer. In researching CBD I saw Sanjay Gupta, M.D. deliver a report for CNN where he documented the way in which CBD was enabling little children with Dravet’s syndrome — who were suffering hundreds of seizures every day — to stop seizuring and begin to live normal lives.
This was a revelation… there was a plant-based medicine that could effectively treat epilepsy, without the deadly side-effects of toxic pharmaceuticals. What the hell?
No, what the fuck?!?!
Why didn’t we know about this in the 1980s?
Short answer: Because CBD, even though it doesn’t get you high, is related to cannabis, and we had, and still have, a moronic federal drug policy…
We now know that we have an endocannabinoid system, which governs sleep, appetite, mood and pain…
It’s time to tell the truth about cannabis!
We now know that we produce our own cannabinoids, which help us maintain homeostasis and are critical to our wellness, and that when we are deficient, we can easily supplement those with phytocannabinoids…
We now know that everything we were told about cannabis from about 1910 to 2010 was utter bullshit.
And the hangover from all that bullshit continues to this day… as pharma companies have had free reign to incentivize doctors to prescribe toxic drugs for us for all sorts of conditions, not just epilepsy.
They are literally killing us — my loved ones and yours too. It’s way beyond outrageous and we have to do something. I could rant on this for a long time, but it gets down to this:
Had we known in the 1980s that CBD has real efficacy against epilepsy (and possibly against fibromyalgia, cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's, inflammation-related conditions and other diseases) my brother Mike — and hundreds of thousands, probably millions of other people — might still be alive today. Untold human suffering — physical, mental, emotional — could have been averted. Not to mention the millions of lives that have been disrupted and derailed by arrests, prosecutions and incarceration for the crime of possessing cannabis, an organic medicine you can grow in your backyard.
Mad yet? Me too, still. This touches all of us. We have been lied to for several generations, and the results have been catastrophic.
I remember thinking in the 1980s that Mike should definitely not go anywhere near weed; who knew how it might affect him? It might do something weird to his already damaged brain, make him unhinged!
The truth is, cannabis might have stopped his seizures. Healed his brain! Saved his life!
No one even knew about CBD at the time, but it seems that giving him some cannabis, which would have included the compound CBD, might have been the best thing we could have done.
Now that we know…
The best way to face any challenge / obstacle / catastrophe is to find the silver lining, right? Many of us now know from personal experience that cannabis is a legit medicine. Money is pouring into the industry, the research is coming, there will be clinical trials and other points of positive proof. We still can’t make medical claims (until we fix our still-outdated federal policy) but we can educate each other.
- We can spread the word that cannabis and CBD are safe and effective medicine.
- We can let people know there’s an organic, non-toxic alternative to the poisons the pharma companies are still relentlessly marketing to us every day.
- We can tell everyone we know that cannabis and CBD can support your wellness by making it easier to sleep, fighting inflammation, and helping your body achieve and maintain homeostasis.
- We can commit to electing, and holding accountable, people who believe in science, and who care about relieving human suffering.
I’ve made this my mission. My brother Mike's life ended way too soon because we were denied access to a safe and effective medicine. That genie is out of the bottle now, but the story of CBD and cannabis needs to be told, because there’s still a lot of misinformation out there.
There are still people telling the ‘reefer madness’ story…
AND there are fast-buck con artists putting out bad CBD… products that have not been scrupulously tested for purity, for molds, solvents and pesticides, or that hardly contain any CBD at all.
AND others making claims that are not supported by any evidence at all.
There's a ‘green rush' of people coming into the industry, and some are positioning cannabis as a panacea when it's not. In fact, the pendulum has swung so far that it seems people are now willing to believe almost anything about CBD and cannabis, and that’s not good either.
Let’s be clear: Cannabis can be abused. It should not be used by children (unless they need it medicinally). No one should drive under the influence of any intoxicant. But it is not the evil weed we were told about for decades.
Bring on the post-prohibition era: Cannabis as a tool for wellness
Given what we've learned:
A) While states have rolled back restrictive laws, there’s still room at the federal level for sensible reforms to our cannabis policies. It should never have been a Schedule 1 substance, and getting decriminalization / legalization right is a long process that takes sustained action on many fronts.
and B) There are ways to intelligently use cannabis and CBD right now to support your everyday wellness. This involves a personal learning curve, as it's a complex plant medicine that comes in many forms and can have different effects on different people.
I’ve been studying this industry for years. I’ve tried many CBD products, including balms, capsules, tinctures, vapes and patches, and there are a few that I will personally vouch for, based on my own experience, and on certifications earned from watchdog organizations that follow scientific processes.
If you want to learn more about CBD and how it can enhance your own wellness, I will:
- Help you find CBD products certified by industry watchdog groups now emerging, like the U.S. Hemp Authority, that are third-party tested, and offer value that is competitive with similar products.
- Ask questions and get answers from people making these products.
- Interview the most prominent experts in cannabis science, and share their findings with you through the Kannaboomers Podcast and other content here.
- Think critically, be guided by science, and continually reassess the evidence-based information we present.
- Never steer anyone to a sub-par product or experience.
- Be an evangelist and activist for this cause.
Join the movement!
If you too are appalled at how our government and the pharma companies have spread lies about cannabis for nearly a century, while at the same time pushing toxic medicines upon us, please join me.
Tell your family and friends that CBD and cannabis are safe and effective medicine. Catch our podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher or the podcast player of your choice. We talk with scientists, doctors, activists and business people about how cannabis is changing the world for the better.
It’s time to come out of the cannabis closet, ask questions, leave comments, make suggestions and share your own perspective, online and out in the world. And when you need CBD, I hope you’ll consider buying it here, so I can continue this fight.
Stay safe, be careful and be well.
Content presented here is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice; the content is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.