I-Team: Mother Turns to Pot to Save Daughter's Life - 8 News NOW

I-Team: Mother Turns to Pot to Save Daughter's Life

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LAS VEGAS -- Proponents say medical marijuana is beneficial in treating a wide array of ailments because it can alleviate pain and stimulate the appetite, which is why its been used in medicine for 3,000 years.

Studies in other countries suggest that pot might have greater healing properties, even against cancer. This belief has given rise to an underground network that provides medicinal marijuana to those Nevadans who need it most.

Approximately 5,000 Nevadans have been given medical marijuana cards. Nine of those recipients are between 16 and 18 years old. While they needed their parent's approval to get a card, there is no provision in state law for someone under 16, even with their parent's permission.

Nevada officials have yet to implement the medical marijuana law approved by the voters years ago, but the marketplace has not waited. An illicit, underground system has found a way to get pot to the people who need it, including minors.

At an undisclosed location, two modern alchemists initiate a fundamental transformation. They start with about $800 worth of high grade marijuana. It's a strain known as Lavender Kush, and they hope to transform it into a magical elixir.

"I am going to pour the alcohol onto it, and it's going to strip the natural oils from the plant," one of the men explains.

They douse the pot with medical-grade alcohol and then start mashing. Though their intentions are honorable, what they're doing is illegal, so they requested anonymity.

Vegetable matter is separated from the liquid. Each drop is precious, the outlaw chefs say. They've both seen the jaw-dropping results.

"It does work ... it got rid of the liver, it got rid of the kidney, it got rid of the lung cancer."

The dark potion simmers for hours atop a rice cooker. The end product is a few vials of murky oil. This time, the chefs know who the consumer will be.

The patient is a precocious bundle of energy and elbows, a bright little girl we'll call Melissa. She was diagnosed with cancer a few weeks after she was born.

"Some days it was really bad. I didn't like it," Melissa said.

Doctors said, with radiation and chemotherapy, she might survive to age three. Her mother made a tough choice.

"They would have had to break her hips, her legs, her ribs at least twice a year for her to grow, and do multiple organ transplants. At that point, I decided quality versus quantity," Melissa's mother said.

A friend told the mom that medical marijuana had produced miraculous results in other cases of childhood cancer. She was skeptical but desperate.

The marijuana underground made up of artists, musicians, and growers heard about Melissa and donated pot and money to produce the oil. Mom administered the oil without the permission of Melissa's doctors, though three of them eventually figured out what was happening when the tumor stopped growing. Melissa learned a month ago that the cancer cells are dead.

Her mother still worries what could happen. She knows she could go to prison or have her daughter taken away from her.

"I have seen it retard and cure cancer and the medical community does not want to accept it," said Adam Sternberg, Compassion Nevada Consulting.

He runs a consulting company. For a $50, he helps patients navigate the state law, get their marijuana card and learn how to grow the plants themselves, which means he encounters a lot of sick people.

"It is helping diabetics, Alzheimer's, dementia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, all of these, I swear to God it helps," Sternberg.

The medical establishment has been slow to embrace pots potential, though studies elsewhere show great promise. Even the American Cancer Society acknowledges that.

State Senator Tick Segerblom plans to modify Nevada's law so that the parents won't have to fear prison.

"And if it's a child diagnosed with terminal cancer, why not try everything? The cancer drugs they give to these poor kids. To kill the cancer, they almost have to kill the patient," Segerblom said.

 The underground network doesn't need to see clinical studies to know the oil has power.

"A lot of people have been willing to risk their freedom and everything they have to help this little girl. She is just a bubble of joy and she gives us all a reason to do this," Sternberg said.

Melissa's mom says the three doctors who became aware she was using marijuana oil gave her a wink and a nod and told her to keep doing what she was doing. One of those doctors died last year. The two others would not speak to the I-Team, even off the record.

The evidence about pot's curative properties is anecdotal, for now but proponents hope that as laws change, clinical studies will be initiated that will find out for sure if it is a cure, or not.

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