While much of America is still stuck in a “Reefer Madness” mindset, the world of science has offered us a number of advancements regarding cannabis. Kalel Santiago of Puerto Rico is only nine-years-old, but he has already endured a lifetime of suffering.
When Kalel was ten months old, he was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a rare childhood cancer. After two years of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation treatments and a triumphant victory over his cancer, Kalel was diagnosed with severe, nonverbal autism.
“While he was in the hospital, we noticed he didn’t speak at all and had some behavior that wasn’t right, like hand flapping, and walking on his toes,” Kalel’s father, Abiel Gomez Santiago, told Yahoo Parenting. “But we waited until he was 3 and cancer-free to look at his behavior.”
Over the years, Kalel’s parents tried various schools and therapies, including a surf-therapy school near their home with which they found some success. Ultimately, they discovered a treatment that would be life-altering: hemp oil, which Yahoo Parenting notes has been shown to ease symptoms of epilepsy and autism.
The family took home a sample bottle of cannabidiol spray and began administering doses by mouth twice daily. After only two days, something miraculous happened: Kalel spoke for the first time in his life. The boy’s father told Yahoo:
“He surprised us in school by saying the vowels, A-E-I-O-U. It was the first time ever. You can’t imagine the emotion we had, hearing Kalel’s voice for the first time. It was amazing. The teacher recorded him and sent it to my wife and me and we said well, the only different thing we have been doing is using the CBD.”
Soon after Kalel began speaking:
“He said, ‘amo mi mama,’ ‘I love my mom.’ I don’t know how to thank [the CBD oil makers].”
“He’s been connecting — like he’s awakening to seeing the world,” Abiel said, noting that they have been keeping up with the treatments for almost a month now.
“He’s looking you in your eyes, he’s been trying to say different things and imitate what we are saying. He’s saying ‘uncle,’ ‘aunt,’ the names of my two kids. It’s something amazing that I cannot explain.”
Kalel’s continued improvements have even managed to shock Hemp Health, the company that produces the oil. “We were really amazed to hear Kalel’s progress, because what they are using is a lower-concentrate product,” said Miguel Feliciano, president of Hemp Health’s Puerto Rico distributor, Antonio & Associates.
Dr. Giovanni Martinez, a clinical psychologist who worked with Kalel at the surf-therapy school, is also amazed by the boy’s progress. “Like his parents, I am also in shock,” he told Yahoo.
“I never got him to speak, and it was something that was haunting me. Language was something that was missing.”
“I’m not going to say let’s give this to every kid, because we have to monitor and study it,” Martinez cautioned. “But I am very impressed with his language development. Imagine a mom who has been waiting almost 9 years to hear her child speak?”
“To me,” he said, “the story of Kalel is groundbreaking.”
It is widely speculated that cannabis oil can be an effective cancer treatment, among a number of other serious conditions. However, its effectiveness has traditionally been limited by one major factor: the law.
SFWeekly reported in 2013 that while cannabis oil has been shown to be effective, Uncle Sam has stepped in — much to patients’ detriment:
“One of the most high-profile was the case of Montana toddler Cash Hyde, diagnosed with a brain tumor at 20 months, whose family credits cannabis oil for keeping the tumor at bay and keeping him alive — until a change in Montana state law cut off his access to oil for a few months. The tumor returned and he died in November, at age four.”
Since 2013, there have been some advancement in the law as parents are increasingly considering cannabis an option to treat their children. In April, the state of Tennessee, for example, passed a bill that would legalize cannabis oil for use in treating seizures in children. Similar legislation was passed in Georgia in March.
Treatments are, unfortunately, not available to everyone. The federal government still classifies all forms of marijuana as being as dangerous as heroin and other hard drugs. While the federal government no longer enforces the law in states that have voted to legalize cannabis and strictly regulate it, numerous states still deprive residents of the medical benefits of cannabis.
We’ve come a long way, but there are still miles to go in the fight to provide Americans with the right to have access to this powerful and effective medicine.