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Last updated on: 9/17/2014 12:10:30 PM PST
Should Marijuana Ever Be Used to Treat Children and Adolescents?


General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
Carl Engelking, staff writer at Discover Magazine, stated the following in his Feb. 21, 2014 article titled "Marijuana Chemical Could Treat Children with Epilepsy," available at blogs.discovermagazne.com:

"A new strain of marijuana has motivated hundreds of families with epileptic children to pack up and move to Colorado to legally obtain the drug. The jury is still out on whether this special pot strain does indeed have measurable benefits, or if it's even safe, but drug companies are racing to replicate its effects in pill form.

The therapeutic pot strain, called Charlotte's Web, is bred not have THC -- the active ingredient in marijuana. Its namesake is 5-year-old Charlotte Figi, a Colorado girl who has Dravet's syndrome...

CBD [cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive component in marijuana bred at a higher concentration in Charlotte's Web] has shown some signs of promise of suppressing seizures in animals, but testing in humans is still in its infancy. A small number of case reports exist with conflicting results, and researchers have conducted just four placebo-controlled clinical trials that focused on CBD's efficacy as a treatment for epilepsy."

Feb. 21, 2014 - Carl Engelking 



PRO (yes)

Paige Figi, Cofounder and Spokeswoman for the Realm of Caring and mother of the girl who inspired the Charlotte's Web strain, stated the following in her June 13, 2014 article titled "Charlotte," posted at theroc.us:

"My six year old daughter, Charlotte, is diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome; a catastrophic pediatric epilepsy. She has significant cognitive and motor delays, brain damage, a surgically placed feeding tube for water and food, struggles to talk and walk, and needs full care in all areas of life...

After getting the green light from our team of neurologists and pediatricians, we started Charlotte at low, non-psychoactive doses [of cannabis] and charted her progress. The first week she went seven days seizure-free, down from the 300 grand mals she had the previous week. Three months into our journey and she was at a solid 90% seizure reduction and free of all pharmaceuticals. Eight months into our journey put her at 99+% seizure reduction.

Along with the seizure control, there are many other benefits she is experiencing from the medical cannabis. Despite being previously 100% tube-fed, she is consistently eating and drinking on her own for the first time in years. She sleeps soundly through the night. Her severe autism-like behaviors of self-injury, stimming, crying, violence, no eye contact, zero sleep, lack of social contact... are a thing of the past. She is clear-headed, focused, has no attention deficit. Charlotte rides horses, skis, paints, dances, hikes. She even has friends for the first time. Her brain is healing. She is healthy. She is happy."

June 13, 2014 - Paige Figi 



David Hadorn, MD, PhD, Senior Research Fellow and Director at the Centre for Assessment and Prioritisation in the Department of Public Health at the University of Otago Wellington School of Medicine, wrote in his July 17, 2003 document Use of Cannabis Medicines in Clinical Practice," (500 KB) :

"Available evidence from culture in which children are provided with cannabis [marijuana] for therapeutic purposes (e.g., Jamaica) has failed to detect any specific adverse effects from such use.

Moreover, there is powerful anecdotal evidence that some children with hyperactivity or aggressiveness can benefit substantially from cananbis medicines (in non-smoked forms).

When used in small doses as directed, cannabis is a much milder drug than Ritalin or many of the other powerful psychotropic agents commonly prescribed for such children these days. Also, one study found that a cannabinoid (delta-8 THC) was safe and effective for treatment of nausea and anorexia due to cancer chemotherapy in children."

July 17, 2003 - David Hadorn, MD, PhD 



Peter A. Clark, PhD, John McShain Chair in Ethics at Saint Joseph's University, wrote the following in his afterword for the Apr. 2003 book Jeffrey's Journey by Debbie and LaRayne Jeffries, in which giving medical marijuana to an 8-year old is discussed (read more):

"The issue in this case is whether or not it is legal and ethical for a parent/surrogate to give consent for a minor to use medical marijuana, which the federal government maintains is unproven in terms of safety and efficacy and could be a 'gateway drug' that leads to more serious drug use...

Seriously ill patients, both adults and minors, have the right to effective therapies. To deny them access to such therapies is to deny them the dignity and respect all persons deserve. [The child's] mother is certainly acting in his best interest.

The benefits of the current treatment outweigh the burdens. No other medication or therapy has been as effective as the use of medical marijuana in relieving his pain and suffering."

Apr. 2003 - Peter A. Clark, PhD 



Jay Cavanaugh, PhD, National Director of the American Alliance for Medical Cannabis, wrote the following in his Sep. 2002 article "For the Sake of the Children," published on the website of the American Association of Medical Cannabis:

"[C]annabis can provide unique help with some childhood disorders including cancer but also attention deficit disorder and autism.

These latter disorders are currently treated with powerful stimulants such as amphetamine in the first case and with brain numbing toxic preparations such as Haldol in the case of autism....

Imagine a child being given half a dozen psychotropic drugs from Prozac to Haldol to Valium and who continues to break down doors and assault others seemingly without provocation who now responds to therapy with medical cannabis. Imagine the parents of such children contemplating a lock up for their beloved child who now sees that child calm and functional.

Loving parents will demand that cannabis be provided to the arsenal their pediatricians and pediatric neurologists already have.

The message to our sick and suffering children is that we love them. The love is greater than any blind acceptance of the existing wrongful beliefs about cannabis that are merely the propaganda of cultural elitists.

As loving parents, these folks are willing to risk the wrath of Child Protective Services, the actions of the DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration], and the ignorance of their own physicians."

Sep. 2002 - Jay Cavanaugh, PhD 



CON (no)

Sharon Levy, MD, MPH, Medical Director of the Adolescent Substance Abuse Program at Boston Children's Hospital and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, stated the following in her Feb. 19, 2013 letter to the Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, published on the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics website:

"No cannabinoid product has been studied for safety or efficacy in children or adolescents...

[M]arijuana does cause changes in the same areas of the brain as other addictive drugs (in particular the nucleus accumbens) and individuals addicted to marijuana lose control over their drug use, just as individuals addicted to other substances. Marijuana use is also associated with serious mental and physical health consequences to which adolescents and young adults are particularly susceptible...

[T]here is compelling evidence that marijuana is neurotoxic to children and adolescents. The American Academy of Pediatrics opposes 'medical marijuana' for children. Several recent news reports have portrayed the short term benefits of marijuana for children with complications of chemotherapy, seizures, and autism. While the anecdotal reports can be dramatic, we do not know how these children fare in the long run. Modern medicine has learned the hard way that very promising looking therapies can ultimately turn out to cause more harm than good. Let's not let history repeat itself."

Feb. 19, 2013 - Sharon Levy, MD, MPH 



Orrin Devinsky, MD, Director of the NYU Comprehensive Epilepsy Center and the Saint Barnabas Institute of Neurology and Neurosurgery, and Daniel Friedman, MD, Epileptologist and Clinical Neurophysiologist at the NYU Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, stated the following in their Feb. 12, 2014 op-ed article titled "We Need Proof on Marijuana," published in the New York Times:

"[P]atients and parents are finding official and backdoor ways to give marijuana to their children.

But scientific studies have yet to bear out the hopes of these desperate families. The truth is we lack evidence not only for the efficacy of marijuana, but also for its safety. This concern is especially relevant in children, for whom there is good evidence that marijuana use can increase the risk of serious psychiatric disorders and long-term cognitive problems.

Where is the data showing that marijuana is effective for epilepsy? Although parents may report improvements in their children, it is important to remember that the placebo response is powerful, and the placebo response is greater in pediatric than adult studies.

Before more children are exposed to potential risks, before more desperate families uproot themselves and spend their life savings on unproven miracle marijuana cures, we need objective data from randomized placebo-controlled trials."

Feb. 12, 2014 - Orrin Devinsky, MD 
Daniel Friedman, MD 



The National Association of School Nurses (NASN) stated the following in its Jan. 2014 position statement titled "Marijuana and Children," published at nasn.org:

"NASN recognizes this overwhelming evidence about the significant negative effects of marijuana use among young people. Therefore, NASN supports that the health and wellness of children in the United States is best served by adhering to medical evidence that smoked marijuana for medicinal use is not recommended for this age group... The well-documented, serious cognitive effects; health implications; and safety concerns of recreational marijuana use lead NASN to conclude that the legal availability of marijuana presents more accessibility to the student population and, therefore, puts students at higher risk of use and health consequences."

Jan. 2014 - National Association of School Nurses 



Glen Hanson, DDS, PhD, Associate Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), stated on July 10, 2003 during a marijuana briefing in Salt Lake City arranged by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), as reported in the Deseret News:

"Its [marijuana] effects on the brain function are compounded in adolescents because the behavior center at the frontal cortex is literally not developed...

"To use [marijuana] is to take chemical shortcuts to the brain's pleasure center. It is not like riding a roller coaster or jumping out of an airplane. This is adding chemicals to your brain, not inducing a normal sensation. You are changing the way it normally functions and, in effect, creating a mental disorder. The brain bounces and bounces and finally stops bouncing back to normal."

July 10, 2003 - Glen R. Hanson, DDS, PhD