Chris Cannon, a former Republican congressman from Utah who was also the state’s GOP party chairman for a time, doesn’t exactly fit the mold of someone who would have an interest in cannabis.
But Cannon, who served in six terms in the House until 2008 when he was defeated in the Republican primary, isn’t merely interested. He’s chairman of Endo-C LLC, an organization that provides patients with CBD oil in a research study that was enabled under a bill signed into state law in 2017.
Cannon’s road to curiosity, and then launching research specifically into cannabidiol started in 2003 with the loss of his daughter, Rachel Anne Cannon, to a rare form of cancer.
During the final stages of the cancer, clear cell sarcoma of the tendons and aponeuroses — also referred to as malignant melanoma of soft parts — a friend of Cannon’s who is a molecular biologist recommended that she smoke cannabis to ease her pain.
“Your daughter’s dying, you’ll do anything,” Cannon told Marijuana.com to talk about his company and the results of a study, soon to be handed over to Utah Gov. Gary Herbert for review, that shows how CDB can help with pain, anxiety and sleep.
Rachel died a few days after the friend’s recommendation before Cannon could obtain some cannabis to give her.
“If I had known people who sold marijuana in my neighborhood, I would have gone out and bought marijuana,” he said. “Before she passed away, she was in great pain. Opioids just didn’t work.”
The friend’s recommendation made a life-changing impression on Cannon far after his daughter’s death.
“I was profoundly intrigued,” he said.
He did his own research into the potential benefits of CBD, became convinced of its promise, and eventually got a friend in Utah’s state Legislature, Rep. Brad Daw, to introduce and successfully push through HB 130, enabling the cultivation and study of the cannabis plant in Utah.
Endo-C has since been conducting an initial study in which participants take two 25 mg CBD gel Capsules per day that lack THC – although future studies could involve CBD products containing up to 10 percent THC as permitted by the law, according to Cannon.
The goal of the study is to provide research and more information on the potential benefits of CBD. Cannon is keenly interested in getting more information out there, another motivation borne out of the loss of his daughter.
Before Rachel Anne was diagnosed with cancer, a doctor performing a biopsy disturbed a tumor, which is believed to have activated its growth. Because the disease is so rare, it was unlikely the doctor knew what he was dealing with at the time, and he was likely unaware of the potential risks to the patient.
“Information would have saved her life,” Cannon said.
The focus of the Endo-C study is on pain, anxiety,` and sleep. All participants currently are from Utah, and there are roughly 100 participants so far. Doctors are also referring patients to the study, and there is been a great deal of interest being expressed by practitioners in using the study’s elements to conduct studies themselves, according to Endo-C officials.
Part of HB 130 establishes a panel for the governor to review the results of the research. The company is nearly complete with the first round of data from the trials, and that information is expected to be handed over to the governor.
Cannon believes this information will help lay the groundwork for greater acceptance of the medical benefits CBD can provide.
“My guess is within a couple of years we will find out about cannabidiol and what it does and what it doesn’t do and what side effects it has,” Cannon said. “I suspect that it will be over-the-counter in a couple of years.”
Endo-C executives are seeking funding for a second round of trials. Currently, there isn’t much venture capital interest in what they are doing until results are produced and made public, and most of the money the company operates on is from what Endo-C and participants in the study can raise. Participants pay $280 per month, but is discounted for students and veterans.
What the company is doing has caught the eye of industry watchers.
“What Endo-C is doing is great and we should all hope more firms take researching the cannabis plant, including hemp, seriously,” said Eric Layland, president of Canna Ventures, a brand development, marketing, and research firm in Seattle. “If the government is going to continue to drag its feet then let private companies fulfill the need.”
So far the results of the study show that the average pain level of participants was reduced, activity increased, anxiety fell, and sleep was improved.
Cannon also said there’s evidence arising from the study that CBD could help reduce opioid dependency.
“In our experience, people who use opioids reduce their opioid consumption dramatically as the cannabinoids take over,” Cannon said.
The study includes some individuals taking opioids when they joined it, so there’s a basis for comparison. However, there isn’t a large enough group yet statistically to report as results, other than anecdotes.
Cannon’s goal for Endo-C is to provide a national go-to database for medical-cannabis-related information.
Layland said he believes his goal is lofty, but an important, one.
“If they have the vision and means to attempt to execute, then go for it,” he said.