By Mark Ackerman
CASTLE ROCK, Colo. (CBS4) – For more than seven decades, Gary Griffin never tried marijuana. The Castle Rock businessman and former Airman considered it "The Devil's Weed."
But at 74, everything changed for Griffin when he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. He started looking for anything that might calm the constant shaking of his hands and the sleepless nights associated with the disease. He read anecdotal accounts from other patients about the benefits of CBD oil, derived from a non-psychoactive part of the cannabis plant.
Reluctantly, he tried it.
"My first drop," Griffin remembered thinking. "I may not survive. I may go wild kicking off the balcony."
"My doctor said,'Don't go confusing your Googling with my medical degree.'"
Soon Griffin enrolled in Colorado's first study measuring the effects of CBD oil on patients with Parkinson's disease. He and a dozen other Parkinson's patients took pharmaceutical grade CBD oil they got from their neurologist Dr. Maureen Leehey at the University of Colorado Hospital.
"We legalized medical marijuana before we knew it was effective for medical disorders," said Dr. Leehey who has researched Parkinson's disease for more than 30 years. "I heard anecdotal accounts from my patients about marijuana use and was concerned it might be dangerous."
In the first phase of her study, Dr. Leehey's patients tolerated a low dose of CBD oil well. Many of her patients reported positive effects.
"They had a reduction in our assessment of their motor symptoms and improvement in their night time sleep," she said.
But, she cautioned an upcoming "placebo controlled" phase of the study will be necessary to produce meaningful scientific results. Everyone in the first phase knew they were receiving CBD oil which can influence results.
As for Griffin, he only saw a small improvement with the shaking in his hands.
"I hoped for a miracle but it didn't happen," he said.
But, he saw a dramatic improvement in his sleep.
"Once I started taking CBD oil, I never had a sleepless night because I couldn't relax my muscle groups," he said.
It was so much of an improvement, the man who called marijuana "The Devil's Weed" has started growing it and processing his own CBD oil at home.
"I'm not a stoner, but I am a proponent," he said.
In addition to Parkinson's Disease, Colorado researchers are currently working to determine if marijuana helps with sleep, pain and epilepsy.
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