Q&A with Tracy Ryan: CEO of Cannakids
The Cannabis 50 highlights the pioneers and innovators helping push the cannabis, hemp and CBD industries forward. In addition to the 2019 Cannabis 50 Impact Review, we are also sharing interviews with our honorees to help spread their message of positivity and growth.
The first honoree we are pleased to share our interview with is Tracy Ryan, CEO and Founder of Cannakids. Ryan, and her daughter Sophie, turned potential tragedy into an opportunity to educate after Sophie was diagnosed with brain cancer. In the years that followed, Tracy, Sophie, and the entire team at Cannakids, have done incredible work sharing Sophie's progress and supporting further research into the medical potential of cannabis.
MGO: How long have you been involved in the cannabis industry? What inspired you in the beginning?
Tracy Ryan, CEO of Cannakids: I always say cannabis found me, not the other way around. When my daughter was diagnosed with a low-grade brain tumor at just 8 ½ months old, our lives were shattered, and forever changed. That was on June 23rd, 2013, and within a couple weeks cannabis entered our lives.
It was through a chain of events on social media that we got connected to celebrity Ricki Lake and her partner Abby Epstein who had just begun filming the Netflix documentary Weed the People. Within days, Sophie was taking her first dose of cannabis, on camera, using oils Ricki graciously donated to us. After seeing the miraculous results our daughter was experiencing, we started our medical-cannabis tincture line CannaKids within a years’ time. At the same time, we began building our non-profit website SavingSophie.org so that we could provide an educational platform for patients looking for answers.
MGO: What was the most positive impactful highlight for you and the company in 2019?
Ryan: Our research! The adult and pediatric cancer research we are doing currently on 19 of our CannaKids patients has produced results that I could have only dreamt of. Led by world-renowned cancer immunologist Dr. Anahid Jewett, we are now working toward bring non-toxic therapies to market. We are beginning to understand how cannabis is fighting cancer, what’s happening on an immunological level, and why we are seeing cannabis help patients stay in remission. We have a long way to go still, but we are hopeful we will be able to prove just how important cannabis truly is to the world of medicine.
The research team has also discovered why Sophie has a brain tumor. And, because of the research done on her and Julian Marley’s daughter Caveri, who sadly succumbed to an aggressive brain tumor earlier this year at age 11, we are now roughly six months away from being ready to prepare for human trials for a new brain cancer therapy. We hope to have as many as seven papers published to the medical journals by the end of March.
MGO: What do you feel was the biggest positive impact for the cannabis industry as a whole in 2019?
Ryan: Awareness. People’s minds are now becoming much more open about the medical benefits of cannabis. Education is spreading faster and further, and the media has shown a very bright and positive spotlight on the effects this plant is having on patients of all ages.
MGO: What can the industry do to continue moving forward in a positive way?
Ryan: We have to have more research, bottom line. With research comes proof, and with proof comes access for all!
MGO: What are your predictions for 2020 in the cannabis industry?
Ryan: I pray that it becomes easier to operate. In California, the new regulatory framework has caused what I can only describe as a disaster. We have struggled alongside small and large companies alike fighting to pay the enormous fees that we now endure that didn’t exist before. And the taxes they are charging patients is nothing short of criminal.
I am going to predict that cannabis will be dropped down the schedule to at least Schedule 3, and that it will find itself regulated like tobacco and cigarettes. Because if it doesn’t, and if better laws aren’t structured, I fear deeply for our industry and the patients that can’t even afford this medicine anymore.
MGO: How are you and the organization preparing to be impactful in 2020?
Ryan: We will continue to raise more money for our research, rolling out our new hemp line called CKSoul so that we can access patients in states across the US, and we’re also rebranding CannaKids on the cannabis side under the same name. CannaKids will become our patient education and advocacy platform allowing for CKSoul to appeal to a wider market.
And lastly, my daughter Sophie and I have launched our own podcast on iTunes called Saving Sophie. We are extremely excited about using the podcast to spread messages of survival far and wide. Our first guests will be Julian Marley, Dr. Jennifer Berman from the TV show The Doctors, and our scientist Dr. Anahid Jewett. We also have Olivia Newton-John and her husband John confirmed, along with Ricki Lake and several pro-athletes.
We have the support of Ellen K from iHeart Media’s KOST 103.5 who has been on the air for years, starting as Ryan Seacrest’s co-host many years ago. Her husband Roy Laughlin who was the GM of KISS FM for 17 years is our producer, and they intend on helping us make this a huge success.
MGO: What’s your favorite way to consume cannabis or CBD?
Ryan: Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE Kiva’s chocolate-covered blueberries and their caramels. It’s my guilty pleasure. At nighttime I love taking our THC and CBD high-potency tincture for sleep, pain, and overall wellness. I never get sick anymore, I have reversed all of the arthritis in my body that used to show up on X-rays, I am off of addictive sleep aids like Ambien, and I have been able to block my nightmares that I would otherwise get from six years of battling my child’s cancer.
MGO: Who else or what other organizations in the cannabis industry do you see as a pioneering and why?
Ryan: Dr. Sue Sisley (ed: also a Cannabis 50 honoree!) for her incredible work in clinical research for war veterans, and Josh Crossney for his East Coast and West Coast-based Cannabis Science Conference. This show brings together thousands of people from all over to learn about the medical benefits of cannabis from the world’s top experts. Not only are these two heroes in my eyes, but they are incredible human beings and I love them both deeply.
MGO: Tell us about the any notable findings you can share from your work on Saving Sophie and your related cancer research?
Ryan: We have our own 501cs called Saving Sophie that we use to raise funds for our adult and pediatric cancer research. We just enrolled our 19th patient, and our findings are profound!
We have discovered that cannabis is attacking and killing cancer stem cells which even chemotherapy and radiation can’t do. For instance, the team has discovered that cannabis is repairing the Natural Killer Cell System which is our number one defense mechanism against cancer. I always recommend patients stay on cannabis long term to help keep their immune system activated and healthy.
The team has also discovered that Sophie has an immune system that functions five times better than that of a healthy adult. Out of all of the patients Dr. Jewett has tested over the last 30 years, even the healthy ones, Sophie’s immune system is at a level that modern medicine cannot explain. After studying over a dozen patients, we have replicated the stimulation of the NK Cells in every patient we’ve tested.
All other findings will be announced between now and the end of March.