Seven-year-old Mykayla Comstock uses marijuana everyday. Mykayla also has cancer. Her mother gives her one gram of cannabis oil each morning to counteract the effects of chemotherapy. Mykayla’s mother insists that the marijuana is a powerful treatment against “wasting syndrome,” a chemotherapy side effect that causes patients to waste away from the inability to keep down food and water.
While the legalized use of marijuana has been a point of discussion during the last several years, there have not been many discussions on its use for children. While Mykayla has leukemia, and is planning on using the drug to help her get through the next few years of chemotherapy, there are other children who are beginning to use medical marijuana for other childhood disorders.
But is medical marijuana safe for children?
Cooper Brown’s mom thinks so. Rebecca Brown’s son is not terminally ill. He does not have cancer. But he is one of 44 Michigan residents under the age of 18 who has a medical marijuana card. The 14-year-old middle school student has Dravat Syndrome, a condition which causes seizures. While Cooper maintains that she would never let her son smoke marijuana, she prepares it in the food he eats.
Brown searches cannabis that has been tested for low levels of THC, the compound that provides the marijuana high. Instead, she opts for high levels of a lesser-known compound, called CBD (cannabidiol). CBD has antiseizure properties.
Brown says that her son has improved dramatically since beginning the cannabis treatment earlier this year.
While the treatment is legal — and Mykayla and Cooper are not the only two children who take the drug — some doctors say it shouldn’t be used by children. They reason that the lack of clinical studies means that there is uncertainty about the effects of marijuana on children’s developing brains and nervous systems.
Mykayla’s mother maintains that cannabis has cancer-remitting properties, and she is glad to be able to give it to her daughter. While state officials have given permission to use the drug to multiple families with young children, they do not keep a record of how the children partake of the cannabis. Parents have the freedom to let their children smoke the drug, or take it in baked goods, a liquid extract, or in a vaporizer.
Along with cancer and Dravet Syndrome, parents alleged that the drug helps with autism, attention deficit disorder, muscular dystrophy, and other ailments.
Experts like Igor Grant of the University of California’s Center for Medical Cannabis Research warn that the “effects of the drug on child development are unknown.” However, the same is true for other drugs given to children with cancer, as well as antipsychotic drugs used in the long-term treatment of childhood mental illnesses.
Some parents argue that opioid drugs such as morphine and oxycontin, which can cause overdose, are more harmful than marijuana. While opioids can cause nausea and vomiting, marijuana reduces the risk of these symptoms that frequently plague cancer patients as side effects of radiation or chemotherapy. Advocates like Mykayla’s mother argue that if opioids are acceptable to treat youngsters’ cancer pain, then marijuana should be as well.
However, the American Academy of Pediatrics disagrees, and opposes the use of marijuana to treat children. They cite the drug’s addictive potential and lack of long-term clinical trials as the bases of their opposition.
Do you think kids should be allowed to use medical marijuana, even if they don’t have cancer?