Although cannabis has been used for its medicinal properties for thousands of years, we have yet to unlock and understand its full potential. For parents of children facing the harsh realities of cancer this means that, due to certain laws that vary from state to state, access to a plant that has the ability to improve their child’s health and quality of life may not be available to them. In states like California, where laws permit children suffering from life-threatening illnesses to use marijuana as a medicine, families have access to a network of caregivers who believe cannabis may be the missing link in our fight against cancer. But it hasn’t always been this way; it was only a decade ago that the idea of marijuana brought forth images of lazy hippies or dangerous criminals.
One person who helped forge the path toward cannabis legitimacy is Mara Gordon, founder of Aunt Zelda’s, who is among the subjects of directors Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein’s Weed the People. The documentary chronicles Gordon’s journey of bringing safe, lab-tested cannabis to children all over the world who would otherwise have very few options for their ailments. The Sonoma County resident is no stranger to the doctor-prescribed antidotes that have the potential to cure us, but it wasn’t until the fentanyl patches, pain medication and sleeplessness she had experienced after her own round of surgeries that she started looking for alternatives to the medicine that was disrupting her quality of life.
When asked recently about why she felt the need to start Aunt Zelda’s, which is named after her aunt’s now infamous cookbook, Gordon states that it was out of necessity. “I looked around at the cannabis products available and what I found was no consistency, no predictability, certainly nothing remotely resembling medicine,” she says. That’s when Gordon, a process engineer, began to learn about the life-saving properties within the cannabis plant. Using her own method to decarboxylate her lab-tested CBD and THC strains, Gordon was able to cook the medicinal elements into an oil that she then used to create her own line of potentially life saving edibles and tinctures.
Through Aunt Zelda’s, Gordon and her husband began collecting data in early 2011 by following patients’ cannabis use and tracking the efficacy of their protocols. This information proved valuable in numerous ways but by better understanding the unique terpene profiles of a particular strain, Gordon and her business partner Stewart Smith were able to begin mapping the essential oils of cannabis long before most of us knew how cannabis even worked inside our bodies.
In Washington, D.C., as with most things, laws take time to change and inevitably it takes a learning curve for most politicians to change public perception. Unfortunately, for most of Gordon’s patients, time isn’t something that they have an abundance of, and the difference between life and death can literally depend on each family’s access to caregivers who are willing to work alongside cannabis to reach a common goal. Gordon believes that with her strenuous efforts to showcase marijuana’s true potential, she may be able to help countless children enjoy qualities of life that every single person deserves, regardless of what state or country you live in.
Recently, Gordon was tasked with the opportunity to screen the film about her at the Jewish Community Center in Irvine, followed by an audience Q&A concerning the medical marijuana field and how cannabis has helped usher in a new breath of life for patients since the passing of the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. As I spoke with Gordon before the start of the show, she seemed anxious about the event and how a group of older, conservative-leaning people would respond to the idea of cannabis as a medicine. “I don’t know if there will be one person or a hundred,” she said. “The point is to get through to at least one person about a plant that has been historically demonized.”
Gordon, along with her team of licensed physicians and caregivers, feel that access to potentially life saving medicine is a fundamental right and although we have made great strides, there’s still a lot of work that can be done. After watching her documentary and hearing her answer numerous questions from the audience, it was obvious that Mara Gordon is the public figure that medical cannabis needs–even if we don’t deserve her. “I think it’s easier for me to get up in front of these people because I AM these people” she says with a chuckle.
Visit Auntzeldas.org for more information about the work Mara continues to do and for a list of licensed dispensaries that carry her wonderfully potent products.
Weed The People is steaming now on Netflix as well as Amazon Prime or is available for purchase through YouTube.
Jefferson Matthew VanBilliard is a leo that enjoys all things cannabis and is just trying his best. He let us know that although the desert will always be his home you can find him on Fourth St. in Santa Ana battle rapping teenagers or at the local high school where he coaches girls varsity volleyball without anyone’s permission.