Every day, the team at Myriam’s Hope, a nonprofit cannabis collective, works together to transform cannabis flowers into pure cannabis concentrate and then mix it into tinctures and salves. Patients across California who are suffering from cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, chronic pain, and a number of other ailments use the extracted medicine to reduce their symptoms and even reverse their disease. But just two-and-a-half years ago, the founders had never even heard of cannabis oil. It took a tragedy to get them started down this path. We had an enlightening discussion with Diana, the founder of Myriam’s Hope, on what a day in the life of an oil-maker is like and how her business has evolved.
The Origins of Myriam’s Hope
In 2013, Diana’s mother, Myriam, was diagnosed with Stage IV glioblastoma brain
cancer. The doctors gave her two to six months to live. Diana was devastated but determined to give her mom more time, so she started looking into alternative treatments.
“I was trying to find a clinical trial that would accept Mom, but there weren’t any open at the time,” explains Diana. “In my searching, I came across a clinical study on cannabis and glioblastoma patients. I started looking into it, and I came across a community of people who were treating brain cancer with cannabis.”
Through Facebook groups, she discovered several brands of high-THC cannabis oil aimed at treating cancer, but the dispensaries nearby didn’t carry cannabis oil at the time—all they carried was butane hash. So Diana and her fiancé, Jeff, decided they would make their own.
“When we first started, we were getting our instructions from YouTube videos and making it on the kitchen stove in Mom’s condo with no ventilation,” Diana remembers. “I’m sure the neighbors were wondering what in the world was happening in the house.” It was the first of many times they worried about the legality of what they were doing.
The improvised oil was helping, though. Myriam started on a combination of chemotherapy, radiation, and cannabis oil, and every MRI was stable. She sailed right past her six-month life expectation. At eight months, the chemotherapy seemed to be making the tumor grow, so they took her off chemo and kept the high-THC cannabis oil going. Her tumor started to shrink.
Diana had become heavily involved in a number of Facebook groups, and other members started asking her if she would make cannabis oil for their loved ones. She realized that other people were encountering the exact same problem that she had found.
“There’s a huge need for cannabis oil,” says Diana, “and at the time, there was no reputable place to get it from that was readily available in our area.” So she decided to start a company.
Perfecting the Art of Oil-Making
Diana and Jeff incorporated Myriam’s Hope as a nonprofit entity. The organization donates and/or discounts approximately $10–12k each month to patients who cannot afford full-priced medicine.
Over time, they have perfected the extraction process and expanded their line of products. Today Myriam’s Hope has six team members and has moved out of the kitchen and into a fully ventilated warehouse.
Diana says there isn’t a “typical” day in the life of an oil-maker, but various team members are usually working on some step of the extraction process. They start with several pounds of cannabis flowers, which they double-soak in alcohol to extract the medicinal compounds. They use Megahome Special Distiller machines and Green Oil Machines to distill the cannabis extracts. The alcohol extraction process leaves no unwanted residue, just pure, sticky cannabis concentrate.
The oil-makers then create custom cannabis oil tinctures by mixing the cannabis concentrate with olive oil. They make the healing topical salve by mixing the cannabis concentrate with cocoa butter, grapeseed oil, jojoba, and a number of essential oils.
They contract with three different growers to source strains that have the desired levels of cannabinoids (high-THC for cancer, high-CBD for pain, etc.). The YouTube videos were a good starting point, and Diana still recommends them for those interested in making their own extracts, but the Myriam’s Hope team has significantly refined the recipe and the extraction process by constantly seeking advice from patients, fellow oil-makers, and chemists.
“We double-test all of our products to ensure that they contain the correct dosage and don’t contain any potentially harmful contaminants. Whenever the test results come back different than we were hoping for, we go straight to the chemists and ask what we can do to fix it,” says Diana.
They test frequently and repeatedly because, as we recently explored in another post, the lack of standardization and consistency in test results is an issue.
“This is a huge problem across the board with any testing labs,” says Diana. “We find
that we can send the same exact sample from the same batch and get two completely different results. Until standardization becomes a requirement between testing facilities, this will always be an issue.”
For patients who are concerned about the safety of their medicine, Diana suggests getting it tested independently. “If in doubt, always submit your medicine in for independent testing. It’s the only way to ensure your medicine is clean.”
Working with Patients
Diana knows that if it weren’t for the cannabis oil, her mom never would have made it as far as she did. But if it weren’t for the support and encouragement of others, Diana wouldn’t have made it this far, either. She urges anyone who has received a serious diagnosis or who has a loved one with a serious diagnosis to join Facebook groups to find an understanding community of people who are going through the same ordeals.
She is an active user within these groups:
- Glioblastoma Brain Tumor
- Glioblastoma Brain Tumor GBM 4 and Cannabis
- Cannabis for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and MS
- Cannabis Oil Success Stories
We met Diana on Facebook, and we were so impressed with the quality of Myriam’s Hope products and the team’s dedication to keeping up with the latest cannabinoid science that we have referred a number of patients to her. We frequently hold consultations with prospective patients and evaluate their needs. Because of our long history of working with people who have successfully used cannabis oil, we have thorough knowledge of which oils and dosages have worked well for patients with various illnesses. People we have referred to Myriam’s Hope have reported great results. (Wondering if these oils would help with your ailment? Set up a consultation with us.)
Even though she’s not registered in the medical field, Diana has taken several courses for nurses and physicians on cannabinoid therapeutics. She also regularly consults with medical professionals, lab chemists, patient advocates including UPG, and patients themselves to continually refine production techniques and dosage recommendations.
Diana and her team work one-on-one with patients and with their doctor or nurse to identify the correct product, dosage, and frequency for the patient’s ailment. Myriam’s Hope will even customize oils for individuals if needed to make sure they’re delivering the maximum benefit.
Patients in California with a doctor’s recommendation can register on the website to
order Myriam’s Hope oils and receive them via private courier. Myriam’s Hope products will be available at a soon-to-open dispensary in Southern California, but for now they are only available online.
Diana and Jeff love helping people, and they would love to expand to help patients outside California. But they are held back by the current state of the legal landscape: conflicting laws and lack of access to basic business services that other industries take for granted.
“It affects every aspect of what we do, how we operate, where we operate, banking, etc.,” says Diana. “We are required to pay taxes, but yet no banks want to work with us. This makes it difficult to accurately do our taxes. We are also required to be set up like any other business, yet we do not have the same write-offs as others businesses do.”
The success of Myriam’s Hope has been bittersweet for Diana. Her mother passed away one year and ten months after her diagnosis, far longer than she was expected to live. She had some complications with her medications and had to stop using the oil. Her tumor returned, and this time it took her life.
“I miss my mom every day, but I’m so glad that she got to live for an entire extra year with no chemotherapy,” says Diana.
Diana remains dedicated to doing everything she can to help families in crisis. She declares, “In my mother’s memory, I will continue to reach out to other families facing a cancer diagnosis or other serious illness and help them get the medicine they need.”
Myriam’s Hope is a proud recipient of the United Patient’s Group Seal of Approval.