How Cannabis Can Save Cancer-Stricken Kids: An Introduction to 'Weed the People,' by Ricki Lake

Ricki Lake


Filmmaker Ricki Lake introduces her new documentary project, "Weed the People," which examines the medical usage of cannabis, particularly among families and children. Above, you can watch the exclusive trailer for the film, and below, read a Yahoo Movies guest column from Lake that breaks down the project.

I have never been a pot smoker. I have always been wary of marijuana because I considered it to be a drug with a potential for abuse, just like alcohol or pharmaceuticals. I've never been very interested in marijuana activism or supported the legalization movement. Yet, recently I've found myself meeting with growers in Santa Cruz, California, attending Drug Policy conferences in Washington, D.C., and hanging out with Snoop Dogg at "420" celebrations.

Like a growing number of people, a personal experience has opened my eyes and shown me the healing potential of this plant. Today, I am trying to produce a new film about cannabis (or cannabinoids for the Ph.D. types,) but first let me explain how all this reefer madness began.

When I was a contestant on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" in 2011, an adorable 6-year-old fan reached out to me on social media. She was undergoing chemotherapy and found a comforting escape through watching the show and rooting for me, a total underdog like her.

Ricki Lake on 'Dancing with the Stars'
Ricki Lake on 'Dancing with the Stars'

I fell in love with this little angel and began doing everything in my power to find new treatments for her incurable condition.

Around this same time, my husband was searching for alternative therapies to help his beloved grandfather fight bone cancer. He began researching cannabidiol (CBD), a powerful anti-oxidant and neuroprotectant found in the marijuana plant that is thought to have cancer-killing properties.

The universe works in mysterious ways, and one night I stumbled across a news report about a "miracle baby" whose inoperable brain tumor had been cured by cannabis oils. Within minutes of reading the story I decided to track down the cannabis physician who treated the baby in the hopes that these CBD oils would help my young friend. A week later I arrived at his office in Mendocino with my husband, Christian, and my producing partner, Abby Epstein.

CBD has long been overshadowed by its euphoric counterpart, THC. This is likely because CBD does not get you high and actually balances out the psychotropic effects of THC. Most people have no idea that we have cannabinoid receptors throughout our body and that our bodies make cannabinoids.

In Mendocino, the physician's wife was successfully keeping her Lupus in remission by juicing CBD-rich cannabis leaves. She made us a "highless" smoothie that she regularly serves to her young children to maintain their immune systems.

The potential of CBD to treat disease is so well-documented that the U.S. government issued a federal patent on CBD over 10 years ago. Yet, the U.S. classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug — meaning it has no medical value and is as dangerous and addictive as heroin.

Now, why would our government patent a cannabinoid that they deem to have "no medical value?" You may have noticed that CNN's Sanjay Gupta has been asking that question a lot lately.

Educating myself on cannabis science and politics has been fascinating, but I don't claim to have any special expertise and am not aiming to influence anyone's personal choices or politics.

As with our 2008 documentary "The Business of Being Born," the goal here is to inform people about options and empower them to make their own decisions. The characters in our new film are parents and children who don't care about the stigma of marijuana and desperately seek more humane therapies than chemo and toxic drugs.

How can a 6-year-old have an open-ended prescription for the poppy-derived, strong narcotic pain reliever, Oxycodone, but not have access to a gentler, non-addictive alternative like cannabis oil? If there are any hidden tools in the fight against disease, we need to bring them out in the open and put them through a rigorous scientific process.

In the past year, entire families have relocated to Colorado in order to legally access a cannabis strain called "Charlotte's Web" that treats their children's epilepsy. Is it really going to take such extreme measures before the market is opened up for medical research?

I hope that our film adds to the growing chorus of voices who are asking how we can resolve this glaring hypocrisy and put politics aside to serve the interests of the people. Many of them are running out of time.

To support us and help finish the film, please go to:
weedthepeoplemovie.com