National Edition

Medical marijuana for children raises questions, draws praise

Published: Wednesday, July 10 2013 2:50 p.m. MDT

Brent Miller poses for a photo with marijuana plants ready to harvest in one of the grow rooms of his medical marijuana grow operation, Thursday, May 16, 2013, in Seattle. Eighteen states, plus Washington, D.C., allow use of medical marijuana, according to an NBC News story. "A number of them provide prescriptions to children, with parental supervision, to treat a host of ills, ranging from autism to cancer to seizures," it said.

Ted S. Warren, ASSOCIATED PRESS

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Parents desperate to help children with diverse health issues, from autism to severe epilepsy, are turning to medical marijuana to provide relief. It's a practice that's drawing both raised eyebrows and praise.

Eighteen states, plus Washington, D.C., allow use of medical marijuana, according to an NBC News story. "A number of them provide prescriptions to children, with parental supervision, to treat a host of ills, ranging from autism to cancer to seizures," it said.

Medical marijuana draws praise and gratitude from some, like the mom of a little boy who sometimes has hundreds of seizures a day and has not found help with the the multitude of medications prescribed to him to control seizures. After starting to use the marijuana in syrup form, she said, he hasn't had a seizure for months.

NBC News said the drug the boy uses is grown on a legal, for-medicinal use pot farm. It was bred to help control pain, nausea and seizures without being psychoactive, so the child won't get high, Dr. Margaret Gedde of the Clinicians' Institute for Cannabis Medicine, told NBC.

Others, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, aren't convinced. The academy says that medical marijuana use was not tested in children and shouldn't be used that way without more study.

“I worry that we just don’t know enough about it,” Dr. Sharon Levy of the Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School told NBC. “I think they’re putting their child at risk of long-term consequences of marijuana use that we don’t fully understand.”

Earlier this year, Levy and other pediatricians issued warnings about an unintended consequence of legalized medical marijuana — an increase in cases of children ending up at area hospitals for treatment after accidentally ingesting the drug. Youngsters are attracted by pot-laced brownies and "candies," according to research published in JAMA Pediatric's Online First edition. In the cases discussed there, the drug was not intended for use by children. Rather, they accidentally ingested marijuana that was intended for an adult with a qualified medical condition that allowed it. Dr. George Wang, the study’s lead author and a medical toxicology fellow at the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center, told Time magazine that the drugs were available in food and beverage forms that made them more palatable for someone who was sick, but also had potential to attract children who would consume them without realizing risks.

EMAIL: lois@deseretnews.com, Twitter: Loisco

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