Why the Cannabis – Epilepsy Linked was Buried in the 1940’s



2.2 million people in the U.S. are believed to suffer from epilepsy. Of that number, most are children.

That is especially concerning, because seizures have the potential to cause brain damage through repeated occurrences.

As you can imagine, that’s pretty stressful for parents, who are often willing to try anything to help alleviate their child’s suffering.

Many parents, such as Matt Figi, whose daughter has suffered from life-threatening seizures, have been turning to low-THC cannabis as a means of treating their kids’ conditions.

You might think it’s a trend sparked by recent discoveries that cannabis is helpful for epilepsy sufferers.

But you might be surprised to learn that this remedy has actually been known of for quite some time – since 1947, in fact.


The study (conducted in 1947) by researchers at the University of Utah Medical School, showed that of five institutionalized epileptic children, three responded better to cannabis treatments than their existing medication. One patient became almost seizure free, while the fifth actually did.

So why are we still arguing the medical benefits of cannabis today?

Well, we’ve got former alcohol prohibitionist and former head of The Bureau of Narcotics Harry Anslinger to thank for that.

Keep in mind, this is the same man who once said “Reefer [marijuana] makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”

The University of Utah Medical School study was conducted behind the backs of Anslinger and the nation’s drug enforcement agencies.

Of course, the research was discovered, and an extensive file was put together on the project, and plans were put in place to block future research on the medical benefits of cannabis.

This included spreading propaganda about marijuana use through statements like the following:

“There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.”

Just a little.

The final blow came in 1970, when The Controlled Substance Act was signed by President Nixon, ensuring that cannabis would remain in the Schedule 1 rank, where it still resides today.

Schedule 1 drugs contain the following characteristics, according to the United States Drug Enforcement Agency:

  • High potential for abuse
  • No medical purpose
  • Lack of safety, even under medical supervision

Recent marijuana legalization laws in certain states have helped, but some parents are still forced to choose between traveling great distances, going through a medical maze and breaking the law to help their children.

Charlotte Figi

It doesn’t help that there are forms of epilepsy like Dravet Syndrome, which Charlotte Figi has suffered from, that are untreatable and can cause seizures that last hours.

The Figis tried everything – from diets to foreign treatment plans. Eventually, although the couple had consistently voted against medical marijuana use, they decided to head to Colorado and give it a shot.

Charlotte’s father used all of his spare time researching various strains of cannabis that could help his daughter.

But the battle was just beginning when he found a strain – R4 – that could help his child. Finding two doctors who would sign off on a medical marijuana card for Charlotte was a whole different battle.

Finally, they found two – doctors Margaret Gedde and Alan Shackelford.

The results were stunning.

Low-THC cannabis does not get patients high.

Many people don’t realize this, which leads to much misconception about the nature of cannabis treatments. This has contributed to everything from major coverups to lumping cannabis in the same category as heroin and MDMA.

While recent legalization laws have gone a long way towards providing patients like Charlotte Figi with viable treatment options, we need to ask ourselves this:

Why is it so much harder for parents of children with epilepsy to get their hands on medical marijuana, something that has been known to help, than it is for them to access pharmaceuticals that cause side effects like drowsiness, abnormal blood counts and liver toxicity?

I think we all know the answer to that one.


Surprised cannabis’ effectiveness in treating epilepsy was hidden for so long? Check out this video from David Wolfe’s Facebook page to see who else is using cannabis for a greater good!

Antique Cannabis Book
Scientific American

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