In a last ditch effort to save his life, 17-year-old Alexander “AJ” Kephart’s dedicated parents, Sheila and Chris, decided to try out cannabis oil on their dying son with miraculous results. Here’s one American family’s painful, inspirational, devastating and heroic medical cannabis cures-cancer story.
AJ’s super supportive father, Chris, admits his son’s story is complicated–even doctors have a hard time understanding everything he is now “missing” and how he’s been put back together (with titanium, prosthetics and even a “cage” around his back after having three vertebrae removed).
It all started in August 2012 when AJ noticed a persistent pain in his knee. In January 2013, he was diagnosed as having bone cancer. Later it was found that he also had stage four lung carcinoma as well.
That’s when AJ started chemotherapy. In May of the same year, his entire knee was removed along with some bone in his thigh and calf. At this point, doctors also found six tumors on all four of his lung chambers. To keep his lungs from collapsing, AJ was kept in the hospital for months hooked up to a breathing apparatus.
AJ was healing up when the cancer returned in 2014. He had his first three vertebrae removed, his top two ribs and sections of his back removed. The surgery itself even had to be stopped halfway as AJ was losing the use of his nerves. He ended up having to wear a cage around his body until the surgery could be completed a week or so later.
Just a few months after the spine surgery, AJ’s oncologist, Dr. Susan Storch, informed Sheila and Chris that his left lung lobe was covered with 20 plus cancerous tumors. They started chemo. Again.
That’s when they got the news: It’s time to “get your son’s things in order,” said the doctors. They gave AJ only a month more to live.
In complete desperation, Sheila and Chris asked their doctor about medical cannabis and its cancer-fighting effects. Dr. Storch agreed cannabis oil would be a good “alternative” medicine to pursue along with another series of chemotherapy sessions. She recommended cannabis pioneer Dr. Bonni Goldstein.
In her Lawndale, California office, Dr. Goldstein explained how cannabinoids–especially CBD–work by telling cancer cells to commit suicide plus it stops the formation of new capillaries, which cancer cells need to grow and spread. But even Dr. Goldstein had to admit AJ’s case was going to be experimental as she has never before treated a child with this particular cancer.
On the way home to Simi Valley, the Kepharts made a stop in Beverly Hills to Tracy Ryan’s then new cannabis clinical built specifically for children, CannaKids. “When we met AJ, he was super frail and was wearing a neck brace. He was taking handfuls of pain medications daily. His Mother Sheila was terrified and she looked like her soul had been ripped out,” remembers Ryan, whose daughter Sophie was healed of a brain tumor via cannabis oil.
In fact, AJ was in excruciating pain. His father Chris says AJ was taking two of the following each day for pain: OxyContin, Norco, Tylenol and Motrin. Without the pain killers, AJ would scream and cry in horrendous pain whenever he was awake.
After five days on CBD and THC oils by CannaKids, Chris says AJ’s pain has decreased so much that he was down to taking only one OxyContin daily. “Wow,” he exclaimed when remembering this stress-relieving moment for the whole family.
Because AJ had nothing to lose, his loving parents decided to speed up the dosage process. Dr. Goldstein had recommended a three-month process to increase the dosage, but Chris decided to fly at warp speed.
In two weeks, AJ was up to the highest dosage, but he was also tired all the time and felt loopy. “No, son,” father Chris said to AJ, “you are just stoned out of your mind.” Chris admits that this was a sad, but comical moment for father and son.
Two months later, the Kepharts visited their oncologist who was shocked that AJ looked much better and stronger. She also discovered his white blood cell counts showed lots of improvement. Four months later, a scan showed the multiple tumors on AJ’s lungs were completely gone.
Chris says Dr. Storch told them something like: “I can’t explain it. There’s no reason for it. But your scan came back totally clear. There’s no cancer. There’s no tumors in his lungs. It’s all gone.”
Since then, every scan has shown there’s no longer any cancer. “I believe cannabis is keeping him alive,” says Chris.
Very unfortunately, high dosage medical grade cannabis oil is expensive and costs the Kepharts almost $2,000 a month to keep AJ cancer and pain free. The stress this financial burden has put on the family has even affected AJ’s mental health.
“He was freaking out about everything,” says Chris, who made sure to provide AJ with a psychotherapist and as relaxing an environment as he can provide given the extreme circumstances.
Today, AJ is still cancer free. He has completely stopped chemotherapy after having more complications. He and his family are seeking less expensive ways to get high-grade cannabis oils, but they have yet to find a more affordable answer before this health crisis literally puts the family in bankruptcy.
AJ’s very brave cancer survival story truly is a medical miracle and another reason cannabis needs to be legalized and affordable for everyone who needs it.
Acceptance of the Cannabis Plant has Strong Ties to the Latino/Hispanic populations
Pot, dope, weed, bud, herb, ganja, flower or Mary Jane; there are probably a few hundred more euphemisms for cannabis in the English language. Yet, within modern society’s lexicon, the most commonly referred word for the plant is “marijuana,” a term which brings with it many negative, illicit and even criminal connotations. Some might even argue that the term has a racist history. “Marijuana” has been what law enforcement, the legal system, mass media, public schools and the general public has come to know the cannabis plant as, for decades now. CULTURE decided to do a bit of digging to find out why, and explore the roots of this term.
During 19th century “marijuana” was a nonexistent term, as it was known as cannabis, a plant that was used as a main ingredient in many medicines, oils, ointments, elixirs and syrups for pain, cough, insomnia, indigestion and more. However, after the upheaval of the Mexican Revolution which started in 1910, an influx of Mexican migrants crossing into U.S. territories to flee the war, introduced the custom of smoking dried cannabis recreationally, referring to the plant as “mariguana,” which later morphed into “marijuana.” Many American citizens felt threatened by this unfamiliar, foreign method of ingesting cannabis which led to the marginalization of immigrants and the creation of America’s first cannabis laws. The first bill criminalizing cultivation of cannabis plants was passed in 1913 in California, some 20 years before the hysteria of “Reefer Madness.” Between 1910 and 1930, when the Great Depression was under way, Americans were looking for scapegoats, and many Caucasian Americans held deeply racist and prejudice sentiments against non-Caucasian immigrants.
With the hype and propaganda of the Reefer Madness film, many began to view cannabis as a drug that caused crime and violence, and particularly effected the lower class fringes of society, and even incited sexual perversion, violence and mental illness. By 1930, a full on firestorm against cannabis and all things hemp was burning strong.
The Federal government had just created the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, led by Harry Anslinger, who waged a full on assault against the plant, using fear, hysteria and racism as his tools to motivate the public against cannabis. He is now considered to be the father of the modern day “war on weed” and the larger “War on Drugs.” Anslinger was quoted as testifying in Congress in the 1930s, “Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind . . . Most marijuana smokers are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage.”
To many, the idea of racism used as a conspiracy against a plant, known as cannabis (and hemp), is outlandish, but to others it fits into the pieces of the puzzle and makes sense as to why and how this nation switched from embracing the medicinal properties of cannabis to outright banning it for all uses, making cultivation and possession a federal crime.
Fast forward to today. Here we are in 2016, and 24 states in the U.S. have sanctioned and decriminalized medicinal cannabis possession and use. Out of those 24 four (Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, Washington) and the District of Columbia have made it legal for recreational purposes for adults. As the racial and ethnic culture lines and divisions that make up this melting pot of a nation grow larger in this country, the status quo of White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPs) being the major population in the future are slim to none. The data already projects that more of today’s minorities, including African-American, Asian-American and Hispanic Americans will also show rises in their population causing a major shift in the demographics.
As many can see, the 2016 Presidential candidates have all tried to pander to the Latino vote, as they see the influx of many new Latino/Hispanic American voters eager to cast a ballot in November. But, how does the Latino/Hispanic community weigh-in on cannabis and the laws regarding prohibition and decriminalization of the plant?
To date, many prominent artists, musicians, celebrities and even politicians have all come out in public support of cannabis and a reformation of the current drug laws and the failed war on drugs, and the prosecution and imprisonment of non-violent offenders.
The list of prominent members of the Hispanic/Latino community who have come out in public support of cannabis legalization for medicinal and recreational use include celebrities like George Lopez, Carlos Santana, Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong, Cypress Hill, Juanes and even former Mexican President Vicente Fox, who came out as an unspoken critic of cannabis prohibition in the U.S. and Mexico. It is certain that this is a future trend that will increase in its size, as more and more prominent Latinos in sports, entertainment, media and even politics will come out in support of decriminalization and ending cannabis prohibition.
Women who are Making their Mark in the Cannabis Sector
Although the cannabis business sector is largely male-dominated, female entrepreneurs and activists are known as significant influencers in the booming industry.
According to a recent survey, 36 percent of the executives in the cannabis market are women. This is an increase from the percentage of women who hold executive roles in all markets, which was found as 22 percent of women by Pew Research Center.
With so many prominent women moving the cannabis industry forward, it is only appropriate to once again shout out some of the top female entrepreneurs in the cannabis sector. Influencing public policy, educating the market, setting operational standards and making millions, find out how the following 12 cannabis businesswomen are taking the industry by storm.
Dale Sky Jones is the Executive Chancellor at Oaksterdam University as well as the Chairwoman at The Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform. A prominent activist in the cannabis industry, Sky Jones was considered to be one of the leading media spokespersons for Yes on Proposition 19 in California. Sky Jones and Oaksterdam University are hugely successful in establishing top quality education, skills and support on the control, regulation and taxation for the cannabis industry.
Amy Poinsett and Jessica Billingsley are Co-Founders of MJ Freeway Business Solutions, and they both are considered national industry experts in their field. Amy Poinsett is the Chief Executive Officer of MJ Freeway Business Solutions, and Jessica Billingsley is the company’s Chief Operating Officer. These two women created software solutions made solely for the sale of cannabis at the onset of Colorado’s cannabis legalization. With top quality software and impeccable timing, MJ Freeway Business Solutions has been recognized on the Inc.5000 fastest-growing companies list.
Two more powerful women in the cannabis sector are Jazmin Hupp and Jane West. Jazmin Hupp is the Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Women Grow, which is an organization that brings together various types of leaders in the cannabis industry through networking, education and support. Forbes and Fortune Magazine recognized Hupp for her expert entrepreneurial skills within the cannabis industry. Jane West is the Founder & National Events Director of Women Grow. She is also the CEO of Jane West Enterprises, which features her collection of cannabis accessories that are geared toward the female consumer. West is also the owner of Edible Events—a mainstream events company is cannabis friendly.
Another powerful businesswoman is AC Braddock. Braddock is the Chief Executive Officer at the extremely successful multi-million dollar technology company, Eden Labs. She also remains active in the industry by serving on two boards, The National Cannabis Industry Association and Council of Responsible Cannabis Regulation. In addition to these two boards, Braddock is also a member of The Marijuana Business Association’s Women’s Alliance and as well as another Washington-based cannabis business group, Women of Weed.
Anne Holland and Cassandra Farrington are Co-Founders of Marijuana Business Media. Anne Holland’s success in the cannabis industry is due to her role in electronic publishing as the founder of Anne Holland Ventures, which is dedicated to publishing and professional education. Cassandra Farrington is the President at Anne Holland Ventures Inc., and it’s safe to say this two-woman powerhouse is connecting cannabis industry professionals in a big way.
You don’t have to be from Maine to know about the thriving Chief Operating Officer of Wellness Connection of Maine, Patricia Rosi. She runs four state-licensed medical cannabis dispensaries in Maine. Since 2011 her multi-million dollar company has grown to over 200 employees and counting. This wealthy businesswoman is providing her community with top quality medical cannabis and turning a huge profit.
Last but undoubtedly not least, established photographer and creative director, Ophelia Chong, has gained notoriety in the cannabis industry since her launch of StockPotImages.com. This company was the first of its kind, because it hosts cannabis specific stock photography, videos and illustrations that are rights-free and rights-managed. Chong’s attention to professional photos along with a persistent will to bring this much-needed resource into existence is worth noting.
The progress of the medical and recreational cannabis industries is largely in part due to strong and successful women entrepreneurs. This is only scratching the surface of powerful, strong women who rock the cannabis sector day in and out, as they are many other women who dedicate their lives to making a difference in our community every day.
Did your favorite female entrepreneur not make the list? If so, let us know in the comments below.
Colorado has always had a special connection with the Eastern world—the beautiful, towering Rocky Mountains call to mind the Himalayas, and the liberal and healthy residents of Denver and Boulder love yoga, meditation and Eastern recipes. However, one aspect of Eastern culture that often gets overlooked is dance. Classical Indian dancing, while an ancient art form, is alive and well here in Colorado, and well-known local dancer Swagata Banjeree has made this art form her life’s work.
“I was only four years old when I started learning dance,” Banjeree told CULTURE. “I always enjoyed dancing but my mother was the first one to take it seriously and put me into a formal training program in one of the classical dance forms of India. From there the journey started and I ended up becoming what I am today, a classical Odissi dancer. My family are ardent followers of traditional music and dance. I have grown up listening to Indian classical music. My mother, Srilekha Banerjee, being a vocalist and specializing in a very rare field of traditional Bengali songs, has always been the biggest source of inspiration for me. I am also grateful to all of my teachers who have taught me throughout my 23 years of dance career.”
“I feel that since it’s been legalized there has to be a good reason behind it. I am hoping that just like other medical drugs this one will also create miracles to heal people.”
“I practice a 2,100-year-old dance form known as Odissi,” she continued. “It had its origin in the temples of Orissa, a state from the eastern part of India. The sculptors in the temples depict different body postures and the sculptors come to life through the dancers when it is performed. Archaeological evidence authenticates Odissi dance as one of the oldest surviving dance forms of India.”
Banjeree currently has a lot of interesting creative projects in the works, as well as a successful career as a dance teacher. “Currently I am working on two projects,” she told us. “One is ‘the Odyssey of Odissi’ and the other one is ‘The Moods of life.’ The first project focuses on the emergence of the style of Odissi, and basic postures, hand gestures and foot movements used in Odissi. The second project highlights how the moods in daily life influence dance expressions. Expression is one of the essential components of any classical dance forms. It is best portrayed when the dancer realizes that we are always using expressions in our everyday life.
As Banjaree practices her craft, her goal is to spread the word about this type of dance and get others more educated and involved. “I teach Odissi in Colorado and perform and conduct workshops all around the country,” she stated. “My goal is to reach out to people around the globe and get them a feel of the intricacies of the ancient art form. I have been awarded the title ‘Singarmani’ for outstanding performance in Odissi dance by Sur Singar Samsad, a prestigious organization in India motivated to promoting Indian classical dance forms. I feel the best when I see my students’ keenness to learn the ancient dance form with enthusiasm. As I appreciate diversity, I am fortunate to teach a very diverse group of students in terms of age and ethnicity.”
In addition to spreading the word about classical Indian dancing, Banjaree is also an advocate of legal cannabis. “I feel that since it’s been legalized, there has to be a good reason behind it,” she explains. “I am hoping that just like other medical drugs this one will also create miracles to heal people.”
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