THE HEALTH PENTAGON
Disease rates and a lack of access to health care that works could be said to be part of a complicated system of interacting parts. There is no simple conspiracy theory explanation, as fun and sen sational as those finger-pointing stories are. Instead, our country’s health problems are about systemic barriers to care, including access to CBD and other plant medicines, that can’t be solved easily. The way I see it, there are five primary elements of our complex system of health, with each part influencing the other. Easy health solutions arise when we can move through these barriers.
1. Big Pharma and Big Food Most corporations are set up to make profit in any way that is legal. For example, when we vote for laws allowing advertising to kids for breakfast cereal that is more sugar than cereal, we’ll have record levels of diabetes . . . because these corporations can legally get away with it. Plant medicine and healthy food are not as profitable.
2. American citizens We cannot give away our responsibility to educate ourselves and take control of our health by learning about plant medicine and the diet-disease connection.
3. Congress Our laws allow campaign donations from Big Pharma and Big Food, along with overly cozy fraternization with lobbyists. Plus, congresspeople know very little about plant medicines and the diet-disease connection.
4. Health organizations Organizations, such as the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association, accept massive donations from Big Pharma and Big Food. How urgently can they really warn us of danger without biting the hands that feed them?
5. Medical doctors and schools Doctors are doing the best they can considering virtually zero required medical education on plant medicine or even on the connection between diet and disease.
Until we change the laws intended to protect us, we cannot fully rely on the knowledge or good intentions of Big Pharma, Big Food, doctors, nonprofit health organizations or Congress. We must take back control of our health by educating ourselves on the diet-disease connection and the amazing power of plant medicines.
Because we are one of the oldest of the modern democracies, it’s been a long time since we’ve looked at what we have, what we need and whether we’re doing things in the right way. Like children born into wealth, we all too often take what we have for granted.
The premise of a democracy is healthy skepticism and self-responsibility. We are supposed to educate ourselves on the issues we compel our Congress to turn into policy and law. But only a tiny fraction of us really do this.
People like Janie Maedler are the exception, not the rule, but they can make a difference. Rylie is still taking CBD in order to make sure that the cancer does not come back, but to do so, she needed help. Maedler wanted to get the School Nurses Association on board so that they could help her administer the oil when Rylie was at school, as Maedler had to take Rylie off school property once per day to give her the dosage she needs. Maedler, and Rylie herself, decided that the only way they would be able to make an impact was to challenge and change the law.
Maedler got into contact with Senator Ernesto B. (Ernie) Lopez of Delaware. Lopez had actually long stood against medical cannabis, even going so far as to campaign on its ban. After a few long conversations with him, Maedler wasn’t sure she could make any difference with him.
“I tried not to get my hopes up too much. And so we continued on about our day, and it was just a couple weeks later when I got the call. I said to Rylie, alright, we have to go meet Senator Lopez. He wants to show us something. We went, and he handed me this paper, and he said, ‘Look at this and see what you think and get back to me.’ And I looked at it, and it was his rough draft of the bill and he had called it Rylie’s Law.1 And I was just like, woah. This is crazy. We felt honored. And I showed it to Rylie, and she was just excited, and she couldn’t believe it.”
Maedler took Rylie to the state Senate committee to actually speak on her own behalf at the age of seven. “Little Rylie, she was there at that table, and she stood up, and she said what she needed to say. She told them how she just wanted a normal life, and she wanted to be able to go to a friend’s house and spend the night. And she wanted to not be afraid of going to bed and never waking up. She had a fear of death, still, and she told the senators that she thought that they could be her friends, and they could help her with all these fears just by allowing her to use this medicine. And that was very powerful. I mean, she had reporters crying.”
Rylie’s law passed unanimously in the Senate and the House. It allows Delaware children under the age of 18 to use medical marijuana-based oils like CBD to treat intractable epilepsy and some related illnesses. But it took the courage of Maedler, her family, and Rylie herself to make that happen.
When it comes to our health, arguably the most important issue facing us as a nation and individually, too many of us presume others will worry about it and that we already have the best health laws to protect us. We assign our right and responsibility to Congress and the Senate, to the medical establishment, to Big Pharma, to industry and to NGO health organizations, such as the American Diabetes Association. After all, we’re very busy and certainly the people we pay to represent our interests will figure it out. We’ll be protected.
That decision, made by so many of us, influences everything else in our lives.
Big Pharma and Big Food
There is no cigar-smoke-filled room of old white men at a board table chuckling as they conspire to steer congressional and public opinion toward their own financial gain. Business is a far more nuanced interplay between shareholders, attorneys, management and many other influencers. In the United States, a corporation can be sued by shareholders if it does not exercise its freedom within the law to maximize shareholder profit payouts.
Plant medicines such as CBD have been available for some years both in the medical community and for those who seek them out, and clearly they are making an impact. The population doesn’t really know much, if anything, about CBD. At least not compared to how well we’re aware of pharmaceuticals like Vicodin and over-the-counter drugs like Tylenol. Americans, for the most part, get their education on these matters from drug and food commercials, not by actually studying, thinking and engaging in debate. While this apathy and buck-passing persists, we will continue to lose out on opportunities to be healthy.
So, if it is legal to use a TV commercial with a magical cartoon character to convince a seven-year-old to push her mother into buying a breakfast “cereal” that has more sugar by weight than grains, companies will do so or risk being sued. And when Big Food, namely the agricultural industrial complex that feeds our nation, creates a food supply system that focuses on quantity over quality, this naturally leads to an increase in consumption, whether or not this is the right thing for the average American.
The system of laws and practices guiding corporate behavior is not designed to protect consumers. But the populace, not Congress, ought to be responsible for demanding laws that ensure advertising and the products sold by them do no harm. The board members and managers of these companies, in this sense, are swept into the tide of a system that is larger than them—a system of laws, shareholder lawsuit risks and unrestrained institutional emphasis on making money—as long as it’s legal.
In this way, Big Pharma has a greater influence on our medical system than Congress. GW Pharma has just released a pharmaceutical made from a CBD isolate (which we’ll discuss later on) that helps children suffering from epileptic seizures. GW Pharma will advertise this drug to the public, and they will educate doctors in the way that they see fit. Until the countless other scientifically known health conditions that CBD can help with are connected to drugs that can make billions for Big Pharma, it is not logical to expect medical doctors to know about the health benefits of prescribing CBD.
Medical doctors and schools
Congress does not require medical students to spend time learning about preventative care. There are causal connections between our choices and our most serious world-leading disease conditions, but the reality is that we have created a medical care framework that is based on reactive care with very low access to needed resources.
Comparing the United States with other OECD countries, for example, the US has the lowest public health care available by far among all other leading countries in the world.2 As well, in a recent survey of 3,505 Canadian and 5,183 American adults from the Joint Canada/United States Survey of Health, researchers found that US survey participants were less healthy than Canadians, with higher rates of obesity, physical inactivity, diabetes, hypertension, arthritis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease overall. The overall difference was related to access to care. While Canadian residents needed to wait longer for surgery due to backlogs in their care system, more Americans were likely not to get care at all.3
The health care organizational framework for addressing these challenges within the United States must change. We concentrate on how we can fix what’s broken, rather than how to prevent breaking it in the first place.
We should, perhaps, blame ourselves for not changing education requirements. Our doctors are generally completely ignorant of the medical literature that reveals the connection between what we put in our bodies and Americans’ extreme levels of diet-induced disease. Similarly, we know even from the interviews in this book that doctors are not trained on how to use natural plant medicines such as CBD. Those who are trained have taken it upon themselves to learn.
There is probably a lot less collusion in Congress than we think, but consider this: even if they are on our side, congresspeople often do not have a great deal of corporate or social work experience, and even fewer have medical training. And, due to their relative age (i.e., older than the average parent), they are likely to be less knowledgeable on modern health issues than most of their constituents.
The primary job of a congressperson is to respond to letters and calls from their constituents and vote accordingly. Without meaningful direction from their electorates, they are at risk of being fully and legally manipulated by Big Pharma and the food industry. This happens thanks to the way in which the US permits lobbying at the highest levels of governance. Volunteer and nonprofit donations are simply eclipsed by those who have the money to push their agendas to the forefront of discussion.
Here’s a good example of how this affects you personally. Let’s look at how, as mentioned above, American companies sell highsugar breakfast “cereal” to children. They’re not only allowed to do it, they face scrutiny from their shareholders if they don’t. In other countries, that’s not the case. In Canada, a 1989 Supreme Court ruling stated that corporations were no longer permitted to advertise to children, a law that included breakfast cereal, fast food and even toys.4 The rationale behind this was that children, in the court’s eyes, are unable to comprehend the meanings behind advertising because their cognitive abilities preclude them from doing so. Advertisers thus have the additional responsibility of not misleading children in addition to older consumers. Not only that, Canada determined that the company had the right to advertise to parents and other adults but did not need to direct marketing toward children in order to succeed as a corporate entity. In addition, the court decided that corporations, as such, did not have equal rights to human beings, in that the lives and security of people should be held dearer in considering such cases.
That’s not the case here in the US.
We don’t even make it a requirement for doctors to do the right thing and keep up with evidence-based research. Bills have been put on the table proposing that medical doctors participate in continuing education on the latest medical findings every four years.5 If these bills had passed, your primary care physician may have been compelled to pass a skills upgrade test on a regular basis. Right now, that’s not happening here, but it’s required in places like Canada and the UK.
Without meaningful public concern over an issue, American forms of democracy and our unusually lenient campaign and lobbying laws perform exactly as intended. The laws that we allow to exist are those that privilege corporations. While elected officials are usually doing the best they can, there is no incentive to change.
It’s not too difficult to imagine how Big Pharma and Big Food influence our laws. It’s also easy to see how Americans succumb to the manipulation of advertising, as well as the effect of the lack of doctor and Congress education.
However, it is not as easy to distrust large nonprofit health organizations whose very charters have been created for our protection. Unfortunately, the laws we have established in our democracy allow Big Pharma and Big Food to donate to these organizations. As a result, some of these organizations consciously or subconsciously omit scientific information that has been well established in peer-reviewed medical journals. They advise diet protocols and drug usages that contradict the science. Let’s take, for example, the story of how the sugar lobby pressured the American Heart Association into claiming that fat, not sugar, resulted in the risk of arteriosclerosis, even though the opposite is true.6 We have a history of financially incentivized medical advice flooding our journals as well as our news media, which has substantially shifted our health habits to our detriment. And because natural products companies don’t make billions of dollars and are far less sophisticated in understanding how to leverage nonprofit health agencies, these organizations offer almost no advice on safe plant medicines.
But natural products companies are springing up because of the rise of interest in plant medicines. Not only are there largescale operations like Harborside and Steep Hill Labs, individuals like Jason David are also joining the fray.
“Now Jason has his own dispensary and he has his own lab and he makes his own high-CBD medicine for his own son and for a bunch of other kids,” DeAngelo explains. “He’s got a product called Jayden’s Juice that we sell to dispensaries and that helps a lot of kids with epilepsy.”
David, like Maedler, has taken it upon himself to share his child’s story with the world and to help others find alternate pathways to health that are not necessarily recommended by large nonprofit health organizations. They are successful in achieving health for their children and for others, and yet they don’t fit into the standard medical care that is supported by our health care system. They aren’t doctors. They aren’t researchers. What Maedler and David have, however, is a vested interest in wellness that makes it possible for them to find pathways to health that others have ignored.
Dr. Reggie Gaudino is a molecular biologist who completed postdoctoral research in the regulation of genes and is currently the vice president of scientific operations at Steep Hill Labs, where he works with the DeAngelo brothers. He’s one of the most educated and respected researchers in his field, and even he is baffled as to why the evidence-based standards required by the American medical establishment don’t recognize CBD, plant medicine or any type of care that doesn’t fit into our current concept of health care.
“The American Medical Association doesn’t teach about CBD,” Dr. Gaudino explains. “In fact, I think there’s only one medical college that’s actually offering any curriculum on the endocannabinoid system and cannabinoids. So the reason we don’t know about it is because eighty years ago, when [cannabis] was made illegal due to Prohibition, all research in the United States stopped. In fact, it’s interesting because, in terms of our own research, we’re having to reinvent the wheel. And we ended up doing a tremendous amount of research only to find that some of the things that we’re discovering now were actually already discovered in the mid to late 1800s.”
We’re so caught up in our own set of values around health care that we literally have thrown out valid, helpful scientific facts. We’ve let corporations control what medicines we access and when, and we’ve stopped caring about preventative health work that would ensure that we don’t require extreme forms of reactive care, such as surgery, when we have nothing else left to try.
Our health and our freedom at stake
Looking at the whole Health Pentagon, it becomes painfully clear that the conspiracy is not in Congress or even corporate board rooms. In fact, there is no conspiracy.
Instead, it can be said that the American people have become oblivious to how these intersecting issues affect our personal health.
We trust almost anyone other than ourselves to find solutions to what ails us.
Spend only a few hours reading credible plant medicine books and diet disease connection resources—namely resources backed by the scientific establishment and the peer-reviewed journal system—and you’ll see why this is the case. Our best scientists are publishing groundbreaking work, like that of Michael Masterman-Smith, but what they’re reporting isn’t picked up by the media or by doctors on the ground. Masterman-Smith’s work has been referenced by almost 3,000 other researchers around the world,7 for example, but you’ve likely never heard of his findings before now. This information isn’t making its way into our daily lives.
Our health issues are stubborn. Our current medical system is not responding fast enough to the irrefutable scientific evidence that now exists. It is almost as though the medical establishment and the American public are incapable of seeing the utterly incontrovertible facts in front of them.
In order to help your community and nation, you must not only find your own personal health solution but also accept your role as a citizen in a democracy. You have to educate yourself, and you have to vote accordingly. You have to call and write to your congressperson. Yes, it is true that there are so many issues to educate yourself on, from the environment to foreign policy to civil rights. However, without our health—our lives—these other issues are in many ways secondary.
1. [Flood, C. School’s out for Rylie’s Law. (2015, November 6). Cape Gazette. Retrieved from https://www.capegazette.com/article/schools-out-rylies-law/92661]↩
3. [Lasser, K., Himmelstein, D. & Woolhandler, S. (2006). Access to care, health status, and health disparities in the United States and Canada: results of a crossnational population-based survey. American Journal of Public Health, 96(7), 1–8.]↩
4. [Irwin Toy Ltd. v. Quebec (Attorney General). (1989.) 1 SCR 927. ]↩
5. [Andersen, K. (Director). (2017). What the Health [Motion picture]. New York: A.U.M. Films & Media.]↩
6. [Associated Press. (2016). Big sugar bankrolled 1960s research pointing to fat as the biggest foe of heart health, study says. National Post. Retrieved from https://nationalpost.com/health/big-sugar-bankrolled-1960s-research-pointing-to-fat-asthe-biggest-foe-of-heart-health-study-says]↩
7. [Google Scholar. (2018). Michael Masterman-Smith. Retrieved from https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=5UnxkmMAAAAJ&hl=en]↩