Medical Marijuana for Children: Is Pediatric Pot Worth It?

    July 10, 2013

The legalization of marijuana, even for medicinal purposes, is one of those political issues that everyone seems to have inordinately strong opinions about. Well, good news, debate fans, now it’s for kids.

Doctors are at odds as to whether prescribing pot for children is a good idea. Critics, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, have argued that prescribing marijuana for young children hasn’t been sufficiently tested and the long term effects of juvenile use are unknown. Other groups, such as the Clinicians’ Institute for Cannabis Medicine, argue that marijuana can be bred so as to downplay its psychoactive qualities.

In the case of 11-year-old Zaki Jackson, medical marijuana has been a life-saver. Jackson was diagnosed at six months old with a form of epilepsy so severe that it caused up to 250 seizures per day. His parents tried 17 different medications over a span of 10 years to try and calm the seizures, but nothing worked.

Then Zaki’s doctor prescribed pot.

“We are Christians,” Zaki’s mother Heather says. “We are conservative. And we’re using medical marijuana. That’s a kind of big hump for people to get over. Despite the stigma associated with cannabis, we owed it to Zaki to give it a try.”

It worked like a charm. “I probably stared at him for a good three hours after his first dose and then I fell asleep. I didn’t feel any seizures after his first dose,” his mother reports. In the eight months since Zaki began the reefer regimen, he has finally been able to do regular little kid things, like ride a swing.

Zaki’s pot is specially bred to have low levels of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in pot, but higher levels of a cannabinoid called cannabidiol, or CBD. While both THC and CBD impact pain, nausea, and seizures, CBD isn’t psychoactive, meaning that kids using this type of marijuana won’t get high.

Still, some experts are skeptical. Dr. Sharon Levy of the Boston Children’s Hospital reiterates that clinical trials are lacking. Levy also notes that some substances that once promised cures have long since been dismissed as ineffective or harmful. “A couple of generations ago physicians were recommending tobacco as a good method of relaxation or to relieve stress,” Levy says. “It seems unbelievable now.”