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Cannabis Advocacy

Heather Ritchie
Written by Heather Ritchie

The path towards federally legalizing cannabis is fraught with misinformation, confusion, and the refusal to relinquish antiquated thought-processes and ideas. Today, advocacy for cannabis is vital to those with severe illnesses and debilitating symptoms that aren’t aware of its therapeutic benefits. It’s a nationwide problem, and Stormy Simon is helping the cannabis movement gain momentum by advocating for education so that people can make informed decisions.

Overstock Career

As the President of Overstock, Stormy built her career from the ground up starting in 2001 when the company was just two years old,and e-commerce was starting to become popular. She successfully worked her way up, through almost every job possible before becoming Overstock’s president.

Stormy felt like that was the pinnacle of her career after 15 years. What comes next for someone who is the President of such a large corporation? She considered Overstock her baby since she helped build it almost from the beginning.

Stormy said that she’d always been an advocate for medical and recreational cannabis and she currently uses it as part of her wellness regime. Thus, given her passion for start-ups and cannabis, the next phase of Stormy’s life was becoming clearer.

Leaving Overstock

Stormy’s identity was tied to her role. “People know how to approach you when you have a title,” she explained. With Colorado next door to her home state, she became fascinated with cannabis when it became recreationally legal.

Stormy likened cannabis illegality to alcohol prohibition. Defining moments in history concerning prohibition were integral to the country and people’s freedom to choose whether or not to drink, but comparing the plight of these two substances goes much deeper.

There is a substantial benefit of consuming cannabis. Cannabis provides a chance to reintroduce the world to plant-derived medicine like that used for thousands of years by our ancestors. Cannabis prohibition is also about civil rights. Stormy was amazed that this movement was taking place in her lifetime and she wanted to be part of the cannabis advocacy journey.

Stormy began mulling the idea of joining the cannabis world in 2016, and by June, she was on a leave of absence from Overstock, a position that she left in July.

After Making the Jump

After leaving Overstock, Stormy found a grow operation in Denver and started consulting with them. She learned about the plant for about five months, as well as dispensary operations, and from that experience, she discovered that she wasn’t a cultivator. Her passions evolved around the operations involved with the plant’s journey from seed to sale.

Stormy also self-educated on terpenes, cannabidiol, and the endocannabinoid system and was exposed to a new world of cannabis advocates. She saw the system that they were fighting and the unnecessary obstacles that the industry struggled with like banking and technology. The revolution, though, was happening.

Eventually, Stormy took a position on the Board of Directors for High Times, a position that would be on any cannabis advocate’s bucket list! Ultimately, her journey led her to CannaKids and founder Tracy Ryan.

Saving Sophie

CannaKids stemmed from the non-profit group Saving Sophie created by Tracy Ryan for her daughter Sophie who had a low-grade Optic Pathway Glioma brain tumor. Sophie was born without complications or health problems until approximately eight months later when nystagmus appeared in her left eye.

A few days after an MRI on June 20, 2013, Sophie was diagnosed with a brain tumor and doctors told her parents that chemotherapy was their only option for stopping the tumor’s progressive growth. Since these tumors grow slowly, chemotherapy wouldn’t eliminate it. While this information was devastating, Tracy and her husband, Josh, chose to look for treatment outside of Western medicine.

They created a Facebook page called “Prayers for Sophie,” where a friend helped her contact Abby Epstein and Ricki Lake who were filming a documentary, Weed the People, on the effects of cannabis oil in pediatric cancer patients. Epstein and Lake were able to help the Ryans find the top experts and oil makers in California to begin Sophie on her journey of healing.

Sophie After Cannabis

Since then, Sophie’s taken CBD and THC cannabis oils,and in October 2013, she began 13 months of chemotherapy. Cannabis oil has helped her keep an appetite and gain weight despite being on chemotherapy, and while she experienced some sleepiness at first, this dissipated over time. Her quality of life was good considering all that she’d been through.

After treatment with cannabis oil and chemotherapy, Sophie’s tumor was reduced by 85 to 90 percent. Over time, a substantial cyst had formed, and this treatment diminished it by almost 90 percent. Each time the tumor re-occurred, the treatment of using the cannabis oil and chemotherapy helped push back on the disease.

Her oncologists have seen her grow and thrive through years of treatment that typically have horrible effects on the body. She’s in school with other kids her age and progressing more every day.

Helping Cancer Research

Simon says that Tracy wants to share Sophie’s story with the world and help others find accessible treatment. She also wants to help with the legalization hurdles and work with researchers to crack the genetic code that makes some people more prone to these Gliomas.

CannaKids has partnered with California’s Cure Pharmaceutical to fund research over the next four years on cannabis and its effectiveness as a cancer treatment at the Technion Institute in Israel. Future phases of human trials will happen at some of the U.S.’s top hospitals. While seeing is believing, concrete, irrefutable proof through research illustrates so much more.

CannaMoms

Another group Simon mentioned that gets less recognition is CannaMoms founded by Moriah Barnhart of Florida. It’s a national non-profit group committed to providing education on and access to supplemental healthcare options for children that are chronically or critically ill, or have special needs or complex medical conditions.

Moriah’s committed to changing how people view cannabis and federal and state laws on it. Her daughter, Dahlia, was diagnosed with the same cancer as Sophie, except her condition is more severe since the tumor is high-grade.

Dahlia’s Story

Once Dahlia began the experimental chemotherapy regime, she had horrible side effects such as nausea and vomiting, nerve damage, mouth sores, chronic pain, and both of her legs atrophied. Moriah found herself in a hard place when she learned that she could lose custody of her daughter if she refused traditional medicine. Then, her daughter would be given the treatment anyway. Either way, her daughter was dying.

Eventually, Moriah began treating Dahlia with cannabis oil in a state that hadn’t legalized cannabis, but the results were astounding. Her pain subsided, she was no longer on a feeding tube, and she started sleeping better. The results were so profound that Dahlia’s oncologist, who at first was uninterested in talking about cannabis treatment, left her career at St. Jude’s to start researching cannabis in Georgia.

Unfortunately, things wouldn’t get easier for Moriah and Dahlia. As a mother, Moriah could choose to be a cannabis refugee (a term used to describe families that have uprooted their lives to move to legal cannabis states) or remain in Florida, and continue the treatment illegally.

She founded CannaMoms in 2014 to support families with gravely ill children but CannaMoms also advocates for anyone who needs alternative treatment. Giving patients and their care givers the rights to one’s health is something Moriah strongly supports. They also help get medicine to moms in other states or help them relocate to states with legalized cannabis.

The Tough Conversation

Stormy says cannabis is the tough conversation that people need to have. It should be confronted and not pushed into some dark abyss to ignore. Let’s talk about the people that are in jail for cannabis possession, the sick children, the people that self-medicate with cannabis, and legislation.

Stormy gave up a stable career to join this movement. She said, “There’s not enough time to tell everyone. All we can do is encourage people to read. Read about the endocannabinoid system and the cannabinoids in the plant.”Before you pass judgment, educate yourself. It’s the most important thing that you can do.

A Revolution

“It will take a movement to make this work. I want recreational cannabis legalized first because I don’t want to pay $5,000 to a pharmaceutical company later that spends five years adding synthetics to it,” Stormy discussed. She urges people to think of what the cannabis industry looks like ten years down the road.

Recreational cannabis is a good thing because it gets the product into the hands of people who will teach each other about the medicine. When you educate yourself about its medicinal efficacy, “do you really need Jeff Sessions to tell you it’s okay. Bureaucracy is the reason this whole thing is behind bars,” Stormy added.

Many people discuss that defining moment that caused them to abandon their careers to join the cannabis movement. Mothers like Moriah and Tracy are truly heroes, dealing with treating severely ill children and still finding the time to advocate and help others. The choice between treating their critically ill child with life-saving medicine and going to jail isn’t something that we should allow as a society.

Stormy is helping to change the world by advocating for the therapeutic benefits of cannabis. She posed one final question after stating that this is a timely matter. Where will you be when it’s your kid, your friend, or even you that gets sick with no other treatment options?

About the author

Heather Ritchie

Heather Ritchie

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