Israel: Research without prejudice
Alan Shackelford is intent on finding out why some of his patients respond so well to cannabis. But despite living in Colorado, the US state with some of the most liberal medical marijuana laws, he has had to travel to Israel to continue his research.
Shackelford’s road to the Mediterranean nation started in 2012. While working in occupational medicine and injury rehabilitation private practice, he got a call from a mother whose 5-year-old daughter Charlotte was having 300 seizures a week and not responding to treatment. The family were desperate for help. They had heard that medical marijuana was being used to treat epilepsy, but had been turned away by doctors when they asked for the treatment for Charlotte. Although Shackelford had finally agreed to treat his older patients with cannabis a few years earlier, he was particularly reluctant to give the herb to such a young child. But, after digging into the literature, Shackelford agreed to treat Charlotte with a specific strain high in cannabidiol (CBD), which a friend of the family converted into an oil extract.
Now 8, Charlotte is thriving. She takes the oil every day and has just one seizure every month or so, Shackelford reports. He has seen other, similar stories, but such case reports and testimonials do not constitute peer-reviewed evidence. However, when he looked into getting permission for a trial, he was overwhelmed by the bureaucracy involved. At a federal level, cannabis is classified as a schedule 1 drug, meaning that it has no known medical value. Unless the study looks at the harm the drug might cause, permission for cannabis research can be harder to obtain than that for heroin or cocaine, says Shackelford. “There is a bias against doing trials here that might show a benefit.”
Photo: Brennan Linsley/AP/Press Association Images