The case for giving medical marijuana to children

The plight of a New Jersey 2-year-old is sparking a debate that could result in new legislation to loosen the state's current law.

By Jonathan Berr Jun 25, 2013 9:01AM
Screenshot of the 'Letters for Vivian' website (© LETTERSFORVIVIAN.ORG)As more states allow seriously ill people to legally obtain marijuana, a new question is coming up: Should children also be allowed access to the substance, which is officially still illegal under federal law?

The issue has come to a head in New Jersey, where Meghan and Brian Wilson are trying to get medical marijuana treatment for their 2-year-old Vivian (pictured), who's afflicted with a rare, debilitating form of epilepsy called Dravet syndrome. The Wilsons are pushing state legislators to pass a law making it easier for minors to get that access. They're being opposed by the American Academy of Pediatrics' New Jersey chapter and a skeptical Gov. Chris Christie.

"According to current state law, any doctor who wants to prescribe medical marijuana to a child must have a pediatrician and a psychiatrist vet his decision," according to New Jersey Spotlight. "That's a particularly daunting challenge in New Jersey, where only two pediatricians have registered with the state's nascent medical marijuana program."

The American Academy of Pediatrics argues that scant scientific data are available on marijuana's effectiveness, an argument that advocates dispute. And NORML (National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws) points out that very few children currently are given legal access to the drug in states where it is allowed.

"The reality is that various substances commonly prescribed to adolescents (e.g., Ritalin) in the marketplace were never clinically tested on young adult subjects and the long-term effects of these substances on young adult users is largely unknown," writes NORML deputy director Paul Armentato, in an email to MSN moneyNOW. By comparison, he notes, "well over 22,000 papers on marijuana appear in the peer-reviewed literature."

New Jersey has among the strictest medical marijuana laws in the country, if not the strictest, because Christie, a former U.S. Attorney, was afraid it was going to be abused by "potheads." Any doctor who wants to prescribe medical marijuana to a child must have a pediatrician and a psychiatrist vet that decision, requirements that some see as overly burdensome. A bill pending in the legislature would treat children the same as adults.

Patients with epilepsy, such as "Vivie" Wilson, are entitled to get cannabis legally. But as the Philadelphia Inquirer noted, New Jersey's one legal dispensary restricts sales to residents in the Northern part of the state. The toddler lives in the central part.

The Wilsons told the newspaper they wouldn't allow Vivie to smoke the cannabis. Instead, they would give it to her as an extract that can be put into food. Such a formulation is available in Colorado and California, according to the Inquirer.

Marijuana has reduced the duration and intensity of the seizures suffered by 14-year-old Jackson Stormes after more conventional therapies such as brain surgery failed, according to New Jersey Spotlight. He has developmental problems and can't speak.

If more children can get access to medical marijuana, it could open a new market for the growing industry, which one forecast estimates will top $3 billion in 2014, double what it is today.

Follow Jonathan Berr on Twitter @jdberr.

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Jun 25, 2013 10:23AM
There are many cases of people with epilepsy being helped by cannabis.  Christie should wish that his profile was as narrow as his mind.  Let this poor little girl have access to a natural drug that has helped many others and has no serious side effects.
Weed has an uphill battle.  You have to remember the mega nerds who run this country don't get high, so therefore it is an evil substance.  The garbage who runs our country should do as the people want, not what their small, boring minds tell them.
Jun 25, 2013 2:08PM
HUCHIMAMA.. How dumb are you? when children need access to cannabis a form of it is extracted, not the part with THC that gets you "Hi" but the CBD's which contain most of the healing properties found in the plant. 
There are currently strains of cannabis being genetically mastered and grown to ONLY produce very high CBD content versus THC content.
CBD's actually counteract the affects of THC so up until recent years cannabis strains with high CBD content were not used.
What some of you guys are failing to see is that those parents already have given their daughter cannabis, and they already have seen the positive affects and now they just want to be able to de-criminalize  themselves because they are only caring for their sick daughter.
Its a crime not to give it to her.
Jun 25, 2013 1:42PM
I'm sure the parents of this little girl would prefer to be able to have her disease treated by conventional methods, but if that is not an option, why not try medical marijuana in an effort to reduce her pain and suffering. You will never know if it can help unless you try. At this point I'm sure her parents don't think it will hurt her or create more issues to worry about. No one with a debilitating illness should have to suffer unnecessarily.
Jun 25, 2013 2:06PM
Actually it's the CBD in mj that helps with epilepsy. CBD does not get you high it actually counter acts the THC in mj. Unfortunately the only way to get it is through MJ. Certain strains carry high CBD percentages, so these are the ones they target for this purpose. At some point the will be able to extract just the CBD and use it for children/adults with epilepsy.   
Jun 25, 2013 2:27PM
Until there is hard proof that medical marijuana use resulted in death or serious side effects, it should be permitted.  Sort of like innocent until proven guilty, no?  Why isn't all this marijuana controversy pretty much settled by now?
Jun 25, 2013 1:33PM

Hell NO!!


Lets dope her up with really good chemicals that kill off organs.

Jun 25, 2013 1:33PM
I'm torn--I feel sorry for anybody who needs access to pain relief--but on the other hand, there is only so much of it around who needs the new market driving prices up?
Jun 25, 2013 2:05PM
Prescription drugs need to go through extensive testing by the FDA before they go to market.  What clinical testing has been done on marijuana to prove its effectiveness?  

Writing 'papers' (as discussed in this article) is not anywhere near the same amount of scrutiny as getting FDA Approval.  Remember the bogus 'paper' that was written saying that vaccines cause autism?
Jun 25, 2013 1:41PM

If cannabis has the medical benefits the pro-marijuana lobby claims it has, then why have the chemicals with the benefits never been isolated?  Why has it never been available in pill form? 


Why not just give this toddler a big fat joint?  That's what all you pro-marijuana people want, right???

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