Is New Marijuana Medication the Key to Fighting Concussions in the NFL?

Right now, the biggest controversy in the National Football League — a matter far more important than trivia such as Deflategate — involves concussions.

A recent study showed that 87 of 91 former players who donated their brains to science after their death tested positive for CTE, a disease linked to concussions. And the impending release of Concussion, a new movie starring Will Smith, promises to bring even more attention to an issue the league would just as soon underplay.

Against this backdrop, Simply Pure dispensary is sponsoring the first of what Simply Pure co-owner Wanda James is describing as a series of "marijuana TED talks" about Cannatol, a marijuana-based medication that she sees as a potential breakthrough in the treatment of concussions and head injuries. The discussions take place at two times tomorrow; details below.

"Cannatol is from the makers of Haleigh's Hope," James says, referencing a high-CBD strain oil named for a four-year-old girl with cerebral palsy and severe epilepsy who went from hundreds of seizures a day to just a handful while taking the medication; it's prominently mentioned in our December 2014 feature about Charlotte's Web, among Colorado's largest cannabis success stories. "It has a one-to-one ratio of CBD to THC, which is still very low in THC. But what we're finding is that after a head injury, a brain injury or a concussion, if you're given high doses of CBD, it seems to remove a lot of the trauma from the injury."

James sees applications for Cannatol far beyond pro football.

"When you think about concussions, you think about professional athletes and what's happening in the NFL with retired players," she notes. "But college athletes playing sports like lacrosse get concussions. And that's not to mention bicycle injuries."

Still, the NFL is what James calls "the fire point" of the concussion conversation.

And while ex-players such as former Denver Bronco Nate Jackson have been pushing for approval of medical marijuana for pain relief, the league remains resistant. James hopes Cannatol may change that.

"The evidence of Cannatol helping with concussions is still anecdotal," she acknowledges, "but there are ongoing studies that are showing great promise.

"And when you see what's happening to people after being hit by 300 pound guys for years, and when you see something that could potentially help and does no harm on the other side, well, we'll definitely be pushing as hard as we can for the NFL to look at this."

The presentations about Cannatol will be hosted by Jason Cranford, the founder of Biotech Inc., which developed the medication. They'll take place on Saturday, October 3 at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. at Simply Pure Dispensary, 2000 West 32nd Avenue. RSVPs are considered a must; call 720-507-PURE (7873) for more details.

In the meantime, here's a trailer for Concussion.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts