Produced by the acclaimed VICE news organization for their new Viceland channel, Stoned Kids takes a probing look at one of the latest trends taking place in the world of medical marijuana. Cancer patients have used marijuana to tame the side effects of toxic medicinal therapies for decades. Some actually believe the drug has the power to cure them of their devastating diseases. Some parents of cancer-stricken children have begun administering the drug to their offspring in the hopes of such a cure. Is this a reasonable use of medical marijuana, or does it harbor hidden and unintended dangers to the lives and wellbeing of these children?
Reporter Krishna Andavolu travels to diverse regions and meets with families who have taken the notion of a marijuana-based cure to heart. In a small town outside of Portland, Oregon, we meet Lauranne, a precocious seven-year old girl who has been diagnosed with a deadly form of leukemia. After suffering through fierce and largely unsuccessful bouts of radiation, chemotherapy and multiple bone marrow transplants, Lauranne’s mother decided to take her daughter’s care into her own hands by medicating her with highly concentrated quantities of cannabis. In the ensuing months since undertaking this homespun therapy, her daughter’s white blood cell count has increased substantially, along with her recovery and quality of life.
The science behind medical marijuana in the treatment of cancer has just begun to blossom and gain acceptance in the popular culture. Traditional cancer-fighting therapies are hit and miss when it comes to targeting affected cancer cells. Many healthy cells are destroyed in the process of these treatments, and their side effects are grave and despairing. It is believed that marijuana arms the defenses of the body’s healthy cells to attack and destroy the cancerous cells on their own.
Another of the film’s interview subjects, renowned oncologist Dr. Donald Abrams, also lends supportive voice to the medicinal benefits of marijuana. He admits that while there’s no doubt as to the effectiveness of cannabis in controlling the myriad of symptoms from traditional therapies, there is still much research to be done to conclusively determine the benefits and potential risks associated with its use as a means to a cure. But his insights, and the stories of additional families whose lives have been undeniably improved from the use of the drug, are never short of promising. Stoned Kids convincingly advocates for a deeper investment in this research.