In a month when marijuana dominated the mainstream news; it was from social media outlets that patients were screaming to the federal government in overwhelming numbers to “Talk to the 6630507 Hand!”
Instagram was quick to shut down the #TalkToThe6630507Hand hashtag, but several others with the same sentiment quickly popped up. A “Talk to the 6630507 Hand” Facebook page garnered over two thousand “likes” in only a couple of days.
What is this “Talk to the 6630507 Hand” about?
Amy Dawn Bourlon-Hilterbran started the “Talk to the Hand” campaign after the DEA’s inaction in regards to resceduling (or descheduling as she would prefer) was announced on August 11. In search of a way for every person, every patient, to unite and speak up and out to the federal government and tell the DEA they don’t believe the decision announced was right, Amy decided to write the number of a patent granted about cannabis on her hand.
“Talk to the hand” was a popular American colloquialism in the 1990’s. The expression continued, “…’cause the face ain’t listening.” It was used in situations primarily by teenagers when they were at the end of their patience with what was being said to them. When Amy chose to tell the DEA to talk to her hand, she had definitely lost her patience with all they had to say.
Amy doesn’t take being an advocate for marijuana descheduling lightly: She moved her family to Colorado in 2014 from Oklahoma to save her son’s life. Her son, Austin, was born with Dravet’s Syndrome, a very severe form of epilepsy. In their home state of Oklahoma, he was on many different pharmaceutical medications for a decade, but continued to decline in health. When a dramatic downturn in Austin’s health coincided with Oklahoma failing to put an initiative for medical marijuana on the ballet, Amy and her family made the heartbreaking decision to move first her and Austin, then their entire family, to Colorado to attempt to save his life.
It has worked. Austin is currently on a full-plant oil (containing both CBD and THC) to control his illness. Except for occasional breakthroughs, he has been completely weaned off of all of the heavy-duty pharmaceutical medications he was taking in Oklahoma. Unfortunately, many of these drugs will put his body and brain through withdrawal symptoms for years to come.
Together with her husband, Amy founded a group called “American Medical Refugees,” designed to centralize information and resources for patients and their families displaced while seeking health for themselves and their dependents. These patients have sacrificed their support systems of friends and family, established schools, jobs and homes to seek cannabis as a legal, often life-saving, medical choice.
The move to Colorado devastated their family: Austin was unable to join his mother in attending his sister’s graduation and they both missed her older son’s wedding due to the inability to travel back to Oklahoma with Austin’s medicine.
When asked if Amy and her family would return to Oklahoma if cannabis was legalized as a medicine country-wide, she was very pessimistic, “I don’t see that ever happening.”
Amy would prefer “descheduling” and removing the plant completely from the Controlled Substances Act, but is not optimistic about it, “there’s too much conversation…there’s not enough momentum, we’re getting diluted in the noise.”
The DEA’s announcement on August 11th infuriated Amy Dawn who had known about patent 6,630,507, having written about it while in an honors program attending the University of Oklahoma. When the DEA completely contradicted what she knew to have been published, she felt compelled to bring the hypocrisy of the federal government’s conflicting statements to light.
In spite of the DEA continuing to contend that cannabis “has no accepted medical uses” and “has not been thoroughly studied,” patent 6,630,507 was issued on October 7, 2003. The United States of America as represented by the Department of Health and Human Services (Washington, DC) acted as “Assignee” of the patent to “Inventors” Aidan J. Hampson of California and Julius Axelrod and Maurizio Grimaldi of Maryland.
In 2011, Kannalife Sciences Co. a portfolio company of Medical Marijuana, Inc., was awarded exclusive rights for the commercialization of the patent which describes how some cannabinoids are useful in neurological disorders. The abstract of the patent states, “The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia…”
On their website, Kannalife.com, they state their company’s intentions clearly, “Our goal is to become a profitable and socially responsible company that develops treatments and seeks to improve the quality of life of patients with neurodegenerative diseases.”
Kannalife has been featured in a Sports Illustrated story about using cannabinoids to treat chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a condition resulting from repeated head trauma. Temple University physicians and teaching staff, Dr. Ron Tuma and Dr. Sara Jane Ward have partnered with Kannalife in furthering the neuroprotective research as well as benefits from the anti-inflammatory properties of the non-psychoactive cannabinoid, CBD.
When Men’s Journal asked Dean Petkanas, KannaLife Sciences CEO, why he got into the business of marijuana and head injuries, he relayed the process of acquiring the patent:
“We looked for ways to get into the market where we would have some level of intellectual property and a barrier of protection, because you don’t want to go out there, start doing things, and have other people take from you. There was some IP that was held by the National Institute of Health, and we applied for licensing on certain IP that was in the hands of the federal government. That was quite an experience because you have a tremendous amount of ideas in the marketplace that suggest the government is conspiratorial.”
The research that Kannalife and Temple University are currently conducting together is designed to create a medication that will lessen the chance of permanent injuries on the field. This research group has applied to the Department of Defense (D.O.D.) and National Institute of Health (N.I.H.) for grants to continue their research into the non-psychoactive cannabinoids, contending that they have significant health benefits. Kannalife’s primary focus is in a “super-CBD” synthetic drug they have designed, stating that it is safer and more bioavailable than the botanical form of the medicine.
A “super-CBD” drug will not help Austin, he requires the full cannabis plant extract for his condition. Like many other people with severe forms of epilepsy, the THC is required to control the seizures. Austin is able to have the medication he needs in Colorado, although the federal government states there is no acceptable medical use for the cannabis plant at all.
Oklahoma’s “State Question 788” garnered 2 thousand extra signatures, past what was needed to have the initiative placed on the ballot, and was officially received by the state on August 23. This measure, if passed, would set in place a system for medical marijuana use by patients in Oklahoma. They include provisions for pediatric patients as well as employment and school protections. A section designed to protect medical marijuana patient rights while seeking conventional medical treatment is also included in the initiative, creating an unprecedented organ-transplant protection for cannabis patients.
When Amy was asked some questions following 788 making the ballot about the possibility of returning to Oklahoma if it passes in November she responded, “we are still so cautious, because our son is medically complex – like many – and we have to adjust to him. We utilize so many compounds of the plant, the whole plant, that is what our son requires to survive – the whole plant…we can hope and pray this is what happens.”
Amy contends that the fact that this patent exists completely disqualifies cannabis from simultaneously being listed on the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). When she read it, Amy felt that the DEA’s press statement put too much responsibility on the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), essentially “passing the buck” in regards to rescheduling, or legalizing the medical use of marijuana.
She is asking that those who wish to participate in the “Talk to the Hand” campaign use their real hands. “Real hands, real messages, real people.” She has been taken aback by the outpouring of personal stories by patients who have shared their hands with her heart and with the rest of the world.
Amy is in the process of building a “Talk to the 6630507 Hand” website. They also have merchandise available to spread the message. A message that she and many other patients and activists want the United States Federal Government to hear loud and clear, “We’re tired of the hypocrisy, we WILL find a way to stop this. Remove it from the CSA, or relinquish the patent!”
(Author’s note: An updated version of this will be published in the April 2017 edition of Everything Medical Marijuana magazine)