Medical marijuana has helped many patients who have been diagnosed with a life-threatening condition. Everything from cancer to epilepsy, PTSD, and opioid addiction can gain some benefit from cannabis. There are countless stories and patient-based evidence that can be drawn upon to help adults make the decision to use such an influential treatment option, especially when so much controversy surrounds it. Unfortunately, there are those in society who can not make these choices on their own. Despite their age, children often find themselves at the center of a medical predicament that they don’t understand and can barely articulate how they are dealing with it. For the youngest patients, it is left up the parents to advocate for their children.
As any parent can attest, seeing the health of your child decline is one of the hardest things we will ever endure. Not only must we make decisions that affect the wellbeing of our kids, but we must also do so without losing hope. We must be strong for our kids. But what’s a parent to do when the choices they have in front of them are dangerous, controversial or God forbid both? That’s where many parents find themselves in New York today.
If we were to consider the leading cause of death by disease among children in the US, cancer, approximately 43 are diagnosed every day. That is a staggering number alone, but when you add it to those who have epilepsy, chronic pain from a devastating injury, or one of many other debilitating diseases, it can get depressing. Now think about wading through the mountain of information that comes with some of these conditions. Treating children, after all, is quite different than treating adults.
If we continue with the example of a cancer diagnosis, there are almost as many types of cancer as there are treatment methods. So how is a parent supposed to know what is best for their child? The first place most parents turn regardless of the diagnosis is to the advice of their doctors. By far, they are the most knowledgeable when it comes to treating these illnesses. Unfortunately, many treatment methods have horrible side effects. Adding unnecessary ailments on top of what is already a devastating situation is often unbearable.
Medical marijuana and children
While virtually every state that has legalized medical marijuana has made a provision for its use in children, there may be subtle differences in how it is regulated. In New York, a parent or legal guardian must act as a designated caregiver who is able to purchase, transport, and administer the treatment. Some states also require that a second opinion be sought by another licensed practitioner before a recommendation can be made. These additional rules have been put in place to ensure the health and safety of the child. Marijuana is a psychoactive drug that can affect the developing brain of young kids. Understandably this concern will inhabit most parents from seeking cannabis treatment.
Apart from terminal cases, most practitioners will not recommend medical marijuana that contains high levels of THC unless and until all other treatment methods have been exhausted. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the primary psychoactive agent found in marijuana. Most practitioners will, however, recommend products that contain CBD (cannabidiol). CBD is a safe, non-addictive compound found in cannabis.
Recently, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved the first cannabis-derived medication, Epidolex, for the treatment of two forms of epilepsy, Dravet Syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, despite their long-standing belief that cannabis has no medicinal value. With this approval, the Federal Government has taken the first step to reevaluate cannabis as a viable medication.
Medical Cannabis dosing in children
Even with products that contain only CBD, practitioners are cautious when recommending products that are made from the cannabis plant. As you can imagine, a child who is smaller than adults will not react the same way to any medication as someone older and weighs more. Though it may not seem beneficial, starting a child at levels much smaller than that of an adult is often the only way to determine the appropriate dosage.
Approved marijuana consumption methods
As with adults, the framers of New York’s medical marijuana program decided that there should be limitations to what kinds of cannabis products can be used. The most common methods of smoking and eating marijuana-laced products are strictly prohibited. The current approved methods for consumption are vaping, transdermal patches, topicals, and oral medications such as tablets, caplets, and lozenges. When considering children, these are also the best options available as smoking and edible varieties can be dangerous if too much THC is present.
New York Medical Cannabis Qualifying Conditions
The following is a list of qualifying conditions for residents of New York. While not all diagnoses will affect children, for continuity, all are included.
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Spinal Cord injury with spasticity
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Huntington’s disease
- Post-Traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Chronic pain
- Pain that degrades health and functional capability as an alternative to opioid use or substance use disorder
The severe or debilitating or life-threatening condition must also be accompanied by one or more of the following associated or complicating conditions:
- Cachexia or wasting syndrome
- Severe or chronic pain
- Severe nausea
- Severe or persistent muscle spasms
- Opioid use disorder
Getting a medical marijuana card in New York
Parents who have a child that has been diagnosed with one or more of the qualifying conditions and who live in New York should seek the advice of a licensed medical marijuana provider if they feel that traditional medications and treatments are not beneficial. In studies, juvenile patients responded well to medical marijuana treatment with pain management, epilepsy, pain due to cancer treatment, and Cachexia.