After 15 months of nail-biting delays—and 17 years after the state decriminalized pot for patients—medical cannabis is finally available for legal sale. Who does it help? How does it work? Is this the crop that will replace sugar? And, if it is, who profits?

By Don Wallace with additional reporting by Lorin Eleni Gill

Published: 2017.10.11 08:55 AM

photo: courtesy of aloha green

Hannah Metsch was 7 years old when her mother, Shana, decided to give her medical marijuana. “We had heard about CBD, or cannabidiol,” says Shana, “but never dreamed of using it on our very young and medically fragile daughter.”

Hannah’s seizures had started shortly after birth. Consultations yielded a diagnosis of partial epilepsy and infantile spasms, and prescriptions for more than a dozen antiseizure medications. But they left her groggy and failed to slow the attacks, which take a toll on the developing brain; she was still having hundreds a day, ending up back in the hospital.

“We needed to do something different to save her life,” says Shana, a real estate agent on Kaua‘i. “We asked her doctors how much more medication Hannah could take before the [drugs] killed her and they didn’t know. We were in fear every day that she could pass.”

photo: mallory roe

With seizures coming from both sides of her brain, surgery was deemed too dangerous; the family turned to alternative medicine, including a vagus nerve simulator and a low-carb diet. When they didn’t work, CBD was next. After trying CBD for the first time at age 7, Hannah’s seizures slowed in just 24 hours.

Today, Hannah is 11 and almost completely weaned from antiseizure medications. She suffers from the consequences of the medications and damage created by the seizures, but her daily functioning is not affected by CBD.

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