Cannabis Antibiotics: Answer to Disease-Resistant Bacteria

There’s been a lot of talk about how, and whether, cannabis can be used in place of antibiotics. Centuries of natural medicine traditions tell us ‘yes’ already, but now the Western medicine world is finally catching up. New research highlights how cannabis antibiotics are a likely and reasonable answer to the issue of disease-resistant bacteria.

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Let’s go back in time first

There are tons of natural medicine traditions that have existed on the planet through the history of man. Two of the more well-known, which are still in existence today, are Ayurvedic medicine out of India, and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) out of China. In Ayurveda, medical cannabis was used since 1000 b.c., with one of the reasons being as an antibiotic. This included topical use for skin infections, as well as for ailments like tuberculosis. Imagine that, information was figured out 1000 years before Jesus was supposed to have walked the earth, and researchers of today are only now catching up? Perhaps we should look at history more often.

When it comes to Traditional Chinese Medicine and cannabis, there’s a striking lack of information published, and not because it doesn’t exist. While most sites cite the lack of translation to Western languages for the void in information, this explanation sounds suspect. This is a popular topic, it goes against logic to assume that no one has bothered to translate for the English speaking world.

cannabis antibiotics

My guess is that as the pre-eminent natural medicine tradition, it bodes better for Western medicine practitioners to keep this information out as it tends to threaten the pharmaceutical industry (highlighted by this very article and the use of a natural medicine to combat bacterial infections). It is understood that cannabis has been written on within the medical tradition for at least 1800 years, and that all parts of the plant were used. Some publications say that hemp has been cultivated in China for as many as 4000 years. Again, there seems to be a block in getting this information to the Western world. You can draw your own conclusions as to why.

Starting anywhere from 1000-4000 years ago, cannabis started being used in medical applications, which have been fully written about in detail throughout history. And one of those applications was using cannabis antibiotics. In today’s world of growing use and over-use of antibiotics, which has led to large and escalating problems with antibiotic resistance, it seems like paying a little more attention to what was gleaned from history, might be exactly what we need.

Western medicine finally catching up

It’s almost funny to think that we’ve technically had this information for thousands of years, and yet most people are wholly unaware, because they aren’t made aware, by the medical world. And instead of paying attention to history, the Western medicine world constantly tries to rewrite it, except that this most recent rewriting only goes to back up what natural medicine has been saying all this time: cannabis can be used in place of antibiotics.

How did Western medicine finally catch up? Through a study showing that CBD can kill gram-negative bacteria. Gram-negative bacteria are bacteria strains most relevant to antibiotic resistance. They are identified – and separated from gram-positive bacteria – by the composition of the inner cell membrane and the cell wall, which are pushed together between an inner membrane and an outer membrane.

The outer membrane is not seen in gram-positive bacteria, and it is this outer membrane that keeps antibiotics from penetrating. Another issue with gram-negative bacteria and antibiotics is that, even if the antibiotics penetrate the cell, the bacteria can expel these antibiotics through an internal pump system, making it that much harder to eradicate them. The two different types of bacteria can be told apart from each other using the Gram stain test. Gram-negative bacteria will not retain the color from the stain test.

What does antibiotic resistance mean?


It means, quite literally, a resistance to the use of antibiotics. However, how it came to be this way, is less obvious. There are a couple issues in particular that led to this current crisis. One is the general overuse of antibiotics, which can be seen in the over-prescription of them when not really necessary, as well as the prescription for antibiotics when the culprit is not bacterial – sometimes for viral infections and other issues that do not require, nor benefit from, antibiotics. The other main issue is the implementation of antibiotics in our food supply. This pertains primarily to animal products, which has meant a massive intake of antibiotics in farm animals, This is generally associated with large corporations that run factory farms to raise animals, where the animals are kept in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions.

What this leads to is a change in the bacterium which allows it to resist the antibiotic, effectively making the antibiotic useless. When thinking of large-scale, deadly, and/or fast-spreading diseases, this creates a general inability to control it spreading, or to help those who have been infected. At least by Western medicine standards. This part is important, as measures have been taken for centuries – and today – that do not require antibiotics. Luckily now, with new research to back it up for those who don’t trust or know their history, it seems to be accepted, or nearly accepted, within the medical community that CBD can be used to kill bacteria, even when it is resistant to antibiotics.

The research

In January of 2021, a study was released that investigated the antimicrobial abilities of cannabidiol, or CBD.  CBD is known as the primary non-psychoactive cannabinoid of the cannabis plant, and as such has been accepted more in medicine than its psychoactive counterpart THC. In this study, CBD was tested with both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria. Gram-positive bacteria are easier to treat as they don’t resist antibiotics as easily, and CBD was confirmed in the study to treat gram-positive bacteria.

When it comes to gram-negative bacteria, where significantly less research has been done, the study authors tested it against pathogens not tested with CBD before, like the following: Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and Clostridioides difficile. The study authors concluded that cannabidiol has “excellent activity against biofilms, little propensity to induce resistance, and topical in vivo efficacy.”

How does CBD do it? It is thought that the main mode of action is through the disruption of the outer membrane, the part that separates gram-positive from gram-negative bacteria, and which allows for the resistance of bacteria. CBD can actually break through biofilms of this kind, allowing entrance into the cell. This study marks the first time that CBD has been used to kill gram-negative bacteria subsets in a study, including a pathogen considered to be an urgent threat – Neisseria gonorrhoeae, known to most simply as gonorrhea. All of this indicates that CBD, itself, could create a new class of cannabis antibiotics.

CBD medicine

What are biofilms, and why isn’t cannabis resistant to antibiotics?

A biofilm  is a “community of micro-organisms irreversibly attached to a surface and encased in an EPS (extracellular polymeric substance), with increased resistance to host cellular and chemical responses.” It can be thought of like a very strong form of plastic wrap that a cell has covering it, which doesn’t allow for the penetration of medications. It acts as a barrier between the microbe and the world around, allowing it to grow without interference. Biofilms can be within the body (where they are substantially harder to deal with without hurting the human body), or outside it on surfaces like medical equipment, pipes, aquatic systems, and many other places. The ability for the bacteria to live in these places and go undisturbed, allows for the spread of them, which can be especially damaging in medical settings.

The question of why CBD doesn’t become resistant becomes a bigger discussion point. Essentially, plant compounds are very complicated, more so than antibiotics, which are very simple. The more complicated, the harder for microbes to get a handle on them. Plants used for medicine have secondary metabolites which make them even more complicated, and introduce alkaloids, flavonoids, tannins, and terpenes, which add to the complexity, while often having their own antimicrobial properties.

If you’ll notice, I said ‘plants’, not ‘cannabis’, and that’s because cannabis is not even close to being the first plant to be established as capable of fighting biofilms. This can be seen in studies like this 2012 investigation into how a number of essential oils can influence biofilms of Staphylococcus aureus. The study found that the essential oils of cassia, red thyme and Peru balsam showed the best results for getting rid of Staphylococcus aureus biofilms, proving more effective than most antibiotics.

The study authors indicated that red thyme and cassia were not tested against MRSA biofilms at that point, but that the essential oils of tea tree, thyme, and peppermint had been, and had already shown to be effective against MRSA biofilms. Basically, the same thing being looked into now with cannabis, was already established with other plants at least eight years ago.

This study from 2019 – as another example – investigated these potentials in the essential oils of cinnamon, marjoram, and thyme, with cinnamon and thyme showing the best inhibitory results.


Watching Western medicine trying to catch up to Eastern medicine is kind of like watching paint dry, or grass grow. For those of us coming from the natural medicine standpoint, it’s a long, frustrating process, with a lot of mishaps, holdups, and misunderstandings. But luckily, things eventually get through, and now, thousands of years after it was established that cannabis antibiotics are effective, it looks like Western medicine is finally taking the bait.

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Mama Cultiva & the Fight for Cannabis Legalization

When it comes to cannabis activism, there are groups all over the world, fighting the governments and public sentiments of the countries they are in. One group stands out among the rest, though. A group of mothers on a quest to help their sick children, and effect change in the process. When it comes to activism, Mama Cultiva fights hard for cannabis legalization.

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The beginning in Chile & a sick 7-year-old child

Mama Cultiva’s biggest chapter is currently in Argentina, but the story of Mama Cultiva and the fight for cannabis legalization starts in Chile, as early as 2014. It was founded by Paulina Bobadilla, a mother of an epileptic daughter, Javiera, who was no longer responding to medications to stop her seizures in 2014, and who was suffering so much pain, and had become so numb, that she would inadvertently rip off her own fingernails.

Bobadilla was already having a hard time shelling out the $800 a month needed for these medications that weren’t even working, and had to sell her hair salon to make payments. Javiera began receiving a couple drops of cannabis oil a day at the age of seven, and according to Bobadilla, her seizures dropped from about seven a day to one, she was able to sleep, and general irritability went down. Bobadilla said positive results began within a week.

In September 2014, Bobadilla’s brother was arrested when he helped her buy approximately 20 grams after she ran out of cannabis to treat her daughter. They were pulled over in a car, where Bobadilla’s brother claimed responsibility for the cannabis and was charged with ‘micro-trafficking’. This means if convicted he faced at least 561 days in prison. I could not find information on the outcome of the case.

children with epilepsy

A couple more examples of early group members include Gabriela Reyes, who in 2014 had an only seven-month-old son who had suffered through up to 300 epileptic seizures a day. When her son stopped responding to medication completely, she was told he was a terminal patient, and essentially would die. Reyes found out about cannabis oil as an alternative treatment and began adding it to the infant’s bottle. His seizures dropped down to approximately 12 a day from 300, at which point he was able to start eating normally. Reyes strongly believes that cannabis saved her son’s life.

Another mother, who would only giver her first name, Susana, was cultivating with her husband in 2014 to make oil for their son with epilepsy. She said how growing can go very slow at times, and often the couple (and other families) would resort to buying off the street when needed. This sometimes meant being taken advantage of by dealers, or sold the wrong plant (male instead of female). For mothers like Susana, learning things like how to reproduce plants in a Mama Cultiva workshop, helped provide better grows so as not to require help from outside, less dependable, sources.

Understanding the illegality of her actions, Bobadilla began the group Mama Cultiva with other parents in similar situations, so they could discuss growing methods to cultivate cannabis to help their sick children. These parents continued to meet and grow secretly, even with the threat of 15 years in prison hanging over their heads, and the reality of Bobadilla’s own brother’s arrest.

Not only did they start to grow marijuana secretly at that time, as it was illegal to cultivate cannabis under Chilean government law, but Mama Cultiva began to push for a medical cannabis legalization that would allow their children treatment without breaking the law. At that time, the Health Commission of the House of Representatives had already approved legislation to home-grow in these cases, but Congress had not actually passed it yet. When Mama Cultiva held its first event, it attracted 11 families. By the second event, over 100 families were involved.

And today…

The early members of Mama Cultiva used social networks like Facebook to find each other and come together. As they grew, neighboring countries started their own chapters all across Latin America. Now, Mama Cultiva is a not-for-profit organization aimed at helping those who suffer from diseases and disorders like epilepsy, cancer, autism, and a host of other ailments that cannabis has shown to be useful for, and where standard Western medical treatments do not work. The organization guides families through the process of obtaining and using cannabis therapeutically, and advocates for legalized self-cultivation, as well as legal medical and recreational programs in South America.

For many looking to use cannabis for medicine, these are uncharted territories, often involving taking part in illegal measures, and Mama Cultiva helps families make it through. The group is also devoted to educating the public about medical cannabis in general, holding workshops, classes, and seminars on the topic. For the last several years, the group has been officially operational, helping those in need, and being instrumental in enacting cannabis legalization laws in different countries. Even in countries that have passed medical legalization measures, the infrastructure is often so paltry (or non-existent) that medications are still not widely available, leading many to grow on their own, and seek help from Mama Cultiva.


According to Gabriela Cancellaro, communications director of Argentina’s chapter of Mama Cultiva, “Self cultivation is still a debt our governments have with their societies, for it is still prosecuted and penalized in most of Latin American countries.”

How they’ve helped

Mama Cultiva activism can be seen all over South America. When Argentina legalized cannabis for medicinal use back in 2017, Mama Cultiva was said to have had a major influence on that legislation passing, even though the group was dismayed that self-cultivation was not legalized at that time. The group was involved in discussions to produce draft legislation for the 2020 decree which did finally legalize home-growing for medical purposes.

Part of what allowed this was the switching of presidents from Mauricio Macri who was in office for the 2017 law passage, but who did very little to make anything accessible to anyone, to Alberto Fernandez, whose government began working on regulations that are more permissive and allow more accessibility.

Mama Cultiva is very active in Paraguay. In 2019 the activist group gave out free cannabis seeds for the cultivation of hemp for sick children. They did this in a public square in the capital city of Asuncion, and it was meant to both help spread the ability for medicine, as well as pressure the government to legalize self-cultivation for medical purposes. This government is currently run by President Mario Abdo Benítez. His predecessor President Horacio Cartes did enact a medical cannabis law, but it was never effective as a regulatory framework was never created to run it.

As of 2020, a current law making its way through Paraguayan government, dubbed the ‘Mama Cultiva Law’, is seeking to decriminalize growing, harvesting, and the production of cannabis oil for home-growers, which would also in turn relax the current legal limit for possession, which is 10 grams. A translation of the modified text goes something like this: “Anyone who has in their possession substances referred to in this Law, which the doctor has prescribed or whoever has them for their exclusive personal use will be exempt from penalty.”

Back to Chile where the group originated, Mama Cultiva has been working with other groups like the Daya Foundation and Movimental to push for greater freedoms for cannabis use, specifically medicinally. While Chile does have a medical legalization, (and a decriminalization measure which has been stuck in the channels of government since 2015, but still hasn’t passed), the lack of access has led to protests literally every year.

cannabis activists

In 2019, as many as 80,000 protesters marched in Santiago for the ‘Cultivate Your Rights’ march organized by the groups above. One of the main issues is the quick passage of the Safe Growing Law, which would stop medical patients from having their home-grown plants seized by the government. Pressure from these groups does seem to be moving things along, albeit slowly.

Stories can be found in all the countries the group operates in, like Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Argentina, and Paraguay.

Effects of Covid

One of the many catastrophes caused by the Covid-19 pandemic – or rather, the reaction to it – is that most of Mama Cultiva’s activities had to stop, and with them, the flow of income into the group which keeps it operational. So just as should be expected by a group known for pushing boundaries, and thinking outside the box, Mama Cultiva moved their fight to places like Instagram, using it as a platform to educate about cultivation, and general marijuana philosophy.

In fact, Mama Cultiva used the pandemic as yet one more reason to push for legalization. Founder and director of Mama Cultiva Argentina – Valeria Salech – stated “In times like these, we find comfort in knowing that we can grow our own therapeutic products in our backyards…Now, more than ever, we want to highlight the importance of the sanitary autonomy provided by growing marijuana at home.”

Even so, these are trying times for an organization putting everything into helping the public. Anyone who would like to donate to the cause, and help keep these fighter-moms going, can do so through their site: here.


When it comes to cannabis heroes of history, Mama Cultiva as a group, has been one of the more influential entities fighting the fight for legalization. All over South America this group has inserted itself into legislative processes, organized protests, educated the public, and risked the freedom of its own members for the sake of helping sick children, and sick people all over the continent. Mama Cultiva has made the fight for cannabis legalization not just about getting high and selling products, but about an actual, legitimate way of saving and improving lives.

Hello and welcome to, your one-stop-shop for all cannabis-related news. Drop by often to keep your finger on the pulse of the legal marijuana world, and sign up to our newsletter so you’re always on top of what’s going on!


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Argentina Allows Cannabis Self-Cultivation

With 2017 legislation, Argentina joined the growing number of South American countries to relax cannabis laws. At the end of 2020, that legislation was expanded, and now finally, Argentina allows cannabis self-cultivation for medical use.

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Cannabis in Argentina

Cannabis is not legal for recreational use in Argentina, but small amounts of it were decriminalized back in 2009. In the Arriola decision, which was the result of a court case arising from the arrest of five men, the court determined that small amounts of drugs meant for personal use, that won’t affect or cause harm to anyone else, and which pose no threat of danger, are decriminalized. There is no official amount set for personal use, meaning law enforcement and judges must use their own discretion per case.

Much like Mexico and South Africa, which each have constitutional rulings related to cannabis and the right of an individual to live life as they see fit without intrusion from the government, Argentina’s court ruled that “Each adult is free to make lifestyle decisions without the intervention of the state.” The decision was also meant to encourage law enforcement money to be spent on bigger cases, while leaving small-time users to enter treatment programs instead.

Cannabis trafficking is illegal in Argentina and can incur a penalty of 4-15 years in prison. It’s illegal for residents to grow marijuana for commercial purposes.

Medical bill 2017

cannabis medicine

On the 29th of March, 2017, Argentina’s senate approved legislation for the legalization of medical cannabis. The bill requires those in need of cannabis medications to register with the country’s national program, which is overseen by the Ministry of Health. Not only that, the government actually set it up to provide free access of these medications to patients and children approved for their use.

The reason it’s free is because the medical ‘program’ was set up under the bill as a research initiative called the National Program for the Study and Research of the Medicinal Use of the Cannabis Plant and its By-products and Non-conventional Treatments. By law, patients have to be enrolled in the program, and the program allows for medical cannabis oil to be provided to patients free of charge. This law did not technically institute a structured market, leaving the only way to access these medications through the government run program.

Besides starting government run cultivation, the law did something else. It instituted the Cannabis Exceptional Access Regime which allows the import of medications with cannabis by-products into the country for verified patients with epilepsy. This provision, as it was written in 2017, does not cover other disorders that can be treated with cannabis medicines. Only licensed physicians, specifically neurology specialists, are able to make such requests on behalf of their patients under this provision.

Argentina now allows cannabis self-cultivation

When the bill was passed in 2017, cultivation carried a sentence of up to two years. While it was pushed for this bill to include a provision for self-cultivation, Argentinian legislators did not include it in the bill, restricting the ability for sick people to grow their own marijuana. By many, including activist group Mama Cultiva – which helped lead the way for this legalization, this was a major failing in an otherwise big step in the right direction.

In early November 2020, a decree was published in the Official Gazette making the statement that Argentina now allows cannabis self-cultivation for medical purposes. The government legalized personal cultivation, along with legalizing the sale of cannabis products (creams and oils) in pharmacies. The decree was signed by President Alberto Fernández, and states that there should be “timely, safe, inclusive and protective access for those who need to use cannabis as a therapeutic tool.” He added that a regulatory framework must be set up quickly to do so. Though the decree made the statement that Argentina now allows cannabis self-cultivation, it did not detail how many plants an individual could grow, stating that this information would be announced later.

Argentina allows cannabis self-cultivation

Patients, or groups, who want to access products in pharmacies, or cultivate cannabis plants, must still be registered with the ‘National Cannabis Programme’, through Reprocann – the Registry for the Cannabis Program, which was originally instituted by the 2017 legislation, but which was never actually operational due to a lack of regulation to govern it. When patients register, they can choose to cultivate their own marijuana, buy from a solidary grower, or obtain products through a pharmacy.

It’s good to remind here that simply passing a bill, or signing a decree, does not institute a regulated market. This decree updated the bill passed in 2017, but didn’t do more to offer a regulatory framework, which means in order for these things to happen, more laws have to be passed to provide details for actual usage. Even so, it’s nice to have the law on the books.

This new decree also expands the ability to import cannabis medicines. Whereas the Cannabis Exceptional Access Regime only applied to epilepsy patients when the 2017 bill was passed, this has now been expanded to include other ailments like fibromyalgia, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and other diseases and disorders that have shown to be helped by cannabis medicines. The government will continue to promote production of cannabis for medical treatments, and, in the same spirit as giving it out to patients for free, will guarantee availability of medications, even to patients who do not have standard health coverage.

According to Prohibition Partners (via Forbes), apart from helping sick people get the medicine they need, and expanding laws so that Argentina now allows cannabis self-cultivation, the cannabis market in Argentina could be worth as much as $40 million in sales by 2024. An increase in revenue has been a strong reason for legalization in other locations, and very likely was an even more powerful motivator than a group of mothers with sick children.

Mama Cultiva and the activists

Argentina is home to a group of influential activists known as Mama Cultiva. As the name implies, this group was started as a group of mothers trying to get medicine for their sick children. Mama Cultiva is an NGO that was originally founded in Chile in 2016, and has been working towards cannabis legalization since that time, both in fighting for new legislation, and providing educational information about cannabis.

Mama Cultiva was a strong force behind the 2017 legalization, and at the time was quite dismayed that cultivation was not given the green light. In light of this new legislation, Mama Cultiva’s Argentina chapter head Valeria Salech said “We’ve been fighting for this for three years… We’re no longer going to be criminalized for seeking a better quality of life for ourselves and our loved ones.”

She explained in a separate statement, “It’s not a law on usage. It doesn’t regulate cannabis. It’s a research law, and the fact that we can insert a mini-regulation in that research law for those of us who grow (the plant) for our health is a big deal.” Mama Cultiva is not just fighting for medical usage, but full recreational legalization, as the organization views it as important for mental health in general.

cannabis activists

To give an example of the level of dedication of Mama Cultiva, and why they are so committed, consider that the woman who made these statements, Valeria Salech, has a now 14-year-old son with both epilepsy and autism, who has been using cannabis treatments for six years.

This desire for greater legalization is echoed by the Argentine Cannabis Confederation, a group of pro-legalization product producers that are involved with the production of things like cannabis infused beer, and marijuana growing supplies. This group, which was upset by not being involved in the debates to determine draft legislation, thinks that the current law still doesn’t reach far enough.

Group president Leandro Ayala reminded “We don’t know what’s going to happen with low-level possession, which is what’s hurting us at the moment, the fact that we can be arrested for carrying two marijuana cigarettes.” He did say that he believes the cannabis industry could benefit from self-cultivation, especially in the form of supplying to these home-growers, but was still concerned overall about the issue of minor possession still being illegal.

He went on to point out that cannabis use shouldn’t have to be associated with sickness, and stated about the recent update in laws: “I don’t celebrate that because you’re only going to be able to grow if you’re sick, and in my case I don’t feel like a sick person. I use (cannabis) recreationally. Why do I have to use the shield of saying I have a pathology in order to grow when that’s not true?”


In a way, Argentina just tripped over its own toes, but not in the worst manner. Before even fully setting its 2017 legislative measures into workable motion, Argentina went ahead and updated them. That Argentina now allows cannabis self-cultivation is great. Going at this rate of updating that which hasn’t even been fully instituted, I can only imagine that a recreational legalization really isn’t too far off in the distance.

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Cannabis Heroes of History: How Robert Randall Beat the U.S.

When we think of the legalization of cannabis, it is not a short, concise, or simple story. And each step forward has been the result of some kind of governmental policy change due to changing opinions, or legal consequences as the result of a person’s actions. In this article we’re going back to the re-introduction of medical cannabis in America, which all started in the 70’s with Robert Randall, when he beat the U.S. in court.

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Who is this guy?

There really wasn’t anything terribly special about Robert Randall for the first part of his life.  He was born in 1948 in Sarasota Florida, and attended the University of South Florida as a political science major starting at age 19, eventually earning a bachelor’s degree in speech and a master’s degree in rhetoric. During this time he started to realize issues with his vision. He would see halos with different colors around lights, his vision would get fuzzy, and he experienced white-blindness – or achromatopsia, a form of color blindness that makes it difficult to distinguish any colors at all. Randall did go to the doctor to investigate these vision issues, but due to his age, he was told it was a result of stress.

After he graduated from university, Randall moved to Washington, DC where he took up as a cab driver. Around 1972, he realized that if he closed his left eye, he was no longer able to read out of his right eye. It didn’t matter if the writing was close up to his face, or several inches away. This time when he went to an ophthalmologist, he was finally given the diagnosis of glaucoma.

There is no cure for glaucoma today, which means there sure wasn’t any back then. Not only was Randall given this diagnosis, but he was told he would go fully blind in three to five years. As with most conditions with no real workable treatment, glaucoma sufferers are generally put on medications to try to preserve eyesight for as long as possible. Then and now, such medications are associated with pain, chronic fatigue, kidney issues, and more. Randall was thoroughly unhappy with the situation.

What is glaucoma?


Before getting farther into Randall’s story, let’s take a look at his affliction to get a better idea of what he was suffering from. Glaucoma is the name given to a number of eye conditions that specifically target and damage the optic nerve. The optic nerve sits in the back of the eye and is responsible for the transfer of visual information from the retina of the eye, to the vision center of the brain, which is does through electrical impulses. The optic nerve itself does not make sense of the information coming in, but rather acts as a vital link in the chain, passing on information to the brain where it can be deciphered.

It’s like a waiter writing down your order at a restaurant and then taking it back to the kitchen where the chef can decode it to prepare the meal. Imagine what would happen if the waiter hurt his leg and could only limp back and forth. Or if he disappeared altogether. There would be no way to get the information from the eaters, all the way to the chefs. It suffices to say that a well-functioning optic nerve is necessary for good vision.

One of the ways glaucoma damages the optic nerve, is with abnormally high pressure. Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness in those 60 years of age and older, and while it does usually target older generations, it can occur at any age.

I can actually account for this myself, having had high eye pressures nearly my entire life (also affected by the thickness of the cornea, or in my case, the thinness of the cornea). My grandfather was nearly completely blind when he died with glaucoma a couple years ago, my uncle was just as lucky as Robert Randall, being diagnosed in his college years, and my mother actually required holes drilled in her corneas to relieve the pressure. It does say quite a bit for modern medicine that my mother and her brother have not lost their vision…yet. Loss of vision from glaucoma cannot be recovered. Most people with this affliction lose their vision gradually, and often problems aren’t realized until way too late.

There are two types of glaucoma, they are defined by the angle created by the iris (the part of the eye with color) and the cornea, which is the outer layer that covers the eye. Open-angle glaucoma refers to when the iris is in the right place, but fluid is kept from appropriately exiting, creating a build-up of pressure. Kind of like having a clogged drain. In closed-angle glaucoma, the iris itself is usually misshapen or damaged, causing it to be squeezed against the cornea. This also blocks the ability for moisture to leave, allowing for a build-up of pressure. Open-angle is substantially more common.

If you are concerned you might have an eye issue like glaucoma, please consult your family physician or a specialist. Some basic warning signs to be aware of:

Open-angle – patchy blind spots in central or peripheral vision, in one or both eyes. Tunnel vision when advanced stages are reached.

Closed-angle (narrow-angle, acute-angle) – intense headaches, eye pain, blurry vision, halos around lights, eye redness, nausea and vomiting.

glaucoma and cannabis

And now back to Robert Randall

Robert Randall had smoked marijuana before, and remembered that it had helped with eye strain previously. Around 1973 he realized that smoking cannabis did, indeed, help his eyesight. In fact, remember those halos he was seeing around lights? He found that smoking cannabis helped eliminate them. He found such relief from cannabis that he eventually started growing it himself to cut down on costs. In early 1975, marijuana plants were found on his back porch, and in August of that year, he was busted for simple possession of cannabis. At this time, cannabis was 100% illegal for recreational or medical use in the U.S., and not one state had a medical marijuana policy. The use of cannabis had been outlawed since the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act.

Randall decided to fight back. He went in front of the court and presented a medical defense that even his lawyer was not behind, stating that smoking marijuana helped to minimize his suffering from glaucoma. This was a completely novel claim at the time. But Randall persevered, finding research conducted through UCLA that supported his claim, and going through a litany of tests to prove his point.

The United States vs Randall

There are plenty of landmark cases in U.S. legal history, and this case is certainly one of them. In 1976, Robert Randall went up against the US federal government using a medical necessity defense for his use of marijuana. Through the case it was found that according to the original diagnosing doctor, Doctor Fine, that the drugs being used to treat his glaucoma were completely ineffective by 1974 due to increased resistance.

Once on trial, he became a participant in experimental programs led by Dr. Hepler who worked for the US government. Dr. Hepler testified in court that Randall was not being helped by the medications, and that surgery was a dangerous idea as it could result in immediate blindness. In fact, the main result of the medical tests was that marijuana smoke did reduce his visual problems, and had a beneficial effect on his overall condition.

The court ruled in Randall’s favor as it found he met all the requirements for a necessity defense, and that he had not caused his own blindness. Judge James A. Washington of the D.C. Superior Court stated when Randall beat the U.S. “…the evil he sought to avert, blindness, is greater than that he performed.” When Robert Randall beat the U.S., he became the first person in the U.S. since 1937 who could legally smoke marijuana. And not just smoke it, but have it provided to him by the U.S. government. Something that continued until his death on June 2nd 2001 due to AIDS complications.

Around the same time that Randall beat the U.S. in court and the charges were dismissed, Randall’s attorneys were successful in petitioning the FDA to have him participate in a research program that would allot him 10 joints a day. This was fine, though Randall often complained about the quality of the government marijuana, claiming it tasted metallic and that street cannabis was better. Then in 1978, his eye doctor moved states and Randall was abruptly dropped from the program. So, what did he do? In 1978 Randall successfully sued the U.S. government to be included in the program once more! Yes, Randall beat the U.S. government again. In fact, this means Randall beat the U.S. government twice. First defensively, and then offensively.

Since then…

marijuana activists

Randall wasn’t just out for himself, he became one of the leading cannabis activists of the time. He travelled around lecturing – even risking his own ability to access cannabis, as well as pushing for legal change. Between 1978-1980, he was an instrumental aide in enacting 30 different laws throughout the States that recognized the medical benefits of cannabis, and also helped establish programs to provide medical cannabis access to patients. Most were never actually active though as the federal government fought hard to close them.

In 1981 he founded the Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics, a non-profit which pushed for greater legal freedoms when it comes to medical marijuana. He even drafted legislation for the 97th congress for the fair and compassionate use of medical marijuana. Hearings were never heard on it, but it did attract 110 co-sponsors including a young Newt Gingrich.

In the 1990’s he began focusing more on AIDS, likely because of his own situation of being diagnosed with AIDS in 1994. He established MARS – the Marijuana AIDS Research Service to help those with AIDS obtain cannabis for medicine. Hundreds of patients went to access this service, and though it was initially approved by the government, it was abruptly closed, even though requests had been given the okay. This left a lot of sick people with no means for legal, useful, cannabis medication, and public outrage over it led to different states eventually offering up ballot measures. It’s what helped drive California to pass Proposition 215 in 1996, becoming the first state to have an instituted medical marijuana program (which came well after Virginia allowed medical use in a drug bill, but never put it into action).

Randall also authored six books, one of which was about his plight. Co-authored with his partner Alice O’Leary, the book is entitled Marijuana RX: the Patients Fight for Medical Pot. He died in 2001 in the same city he was born, Sarasota, Florida. He was 53 years old.


Robert Randall’s name is not one of the more well-known when it comes to legal antics or cannabis, yet he proved himself to be one of the most important figures in the re-establishment of medical marijuana. As medical legalization policies sprout up all over the world, and as medical cannabis was just rescheduled according to the UN’s Single Convention on Narcotic Substances, perhaps we should take a minute to give a little thankful appreciation to one of the heroes that helped make it happen. So thank you Robert Randall, for having the intelligence, motivation, and drive to beat the U.S. in court, and for fighting to help those in need.

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