Is Black Community Missing Out on the Medical Benefits of Weed?

Article by Allison Keyes, The Root

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If you search “babies cured with cannabis” on YouTube, you come up with a plethora of emotional videos. There’s California’s Dr. William Courtney from 2013, using X-rays to show what he says is the cure of an 8-month-old baby suffering from a brain tumor with cannabis oil. Then there’s an excerptfrom the 2014 documentary The Culture High, in which California resident Jason David explains how a cannabis extract helped his child stop having literally hundreds of seizures a day.

But very few of the people in the pages of videos appear to be people of color.

“It’s time for us as a community to embrace this plant and understand what it means. We need to start helping our children,” says activist and entrepreneur Wanda James. She is the African-American co-founder and CEO of the Colorado-based dispensary Simply Pure, and she thinks blacks are missing out on what she says are the major medical benefits of marijuana.

“I’m not seeing black children with cancer lining up to get cannabis oil. I’m not seeing our kids take advantage of what I’m seeing a lot of other children take advantage of,” James says. “Cannabis helps with brain cancer and epilepsy. … Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia have said there is a medicinal value. We know this plant will increase the appetite in people who can’t eat. We know it will stop nausea. But most of the people who use medical marijuana are white.”

In Washington, D.C., where medical marijuana was first approved in 2010, a report (pdf) from May notes that “it is important to remember that the substance does have legitimate medical uses.” It cites 1999 research from the Institute of Medicine reporting that weed is effective in controlling some forms of pain, alleviating nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy, treating wasting due to AIDS, and combating muscle spasms associated with multiple sclerosis. It confirms that marijuana low in THC­—or tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical that causes the high—has “shown promising results for managing seizures in children,” and that research suggests marijuana may be helpful for everything from Alzheimer’s disease to asthma, arthritis and glaucoma.

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