Children in Illinois can now be prescribed medical marijuana, according to rules announced by state officials last week.
The rules amend the state’s medical marijuana pilot program, which initially did not include children under 18 years old. After lawmakers approved it in June, a handful of parents spearheaded a successful campaign to open the program to children, especially those who suffer from epileptic seizures.
Under the new rules, which went into effect on New Year’s Day, children diagnosed with a qualifying debilitating condition can obtain marijuana-infused products, but not raw marijuana for smoking. In order to obtain the treatment, children need a signature from their own physician, an additional doctor’s review and authorization, and parental permission.
Since 1996, 23 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws creating medical marijuana programs. An additional 11 states, including Florida, North Carolina, and Tennessee recently legalized the limited use of low THC, high CDB treatment for adults and minors with specific conditions.
Supporters see this as a major step toward allowing children the potential benefits of medicinal marijuana. A hybrid marijuana strain called Charlotte’s Web has a growing following of parents who believe it’s an effective, almost miraculous, treatment for children suffering from severe seizures. The strain was developed by a Colorado company to be low in THC, the psychoactive ingredient that causes people to get high, and heavy in CBD, a compound in the marijuana plant with supposed medicinal qualities. Two U.S. drug companies have launched studies into the effects of CBD on childhood seizures, but results will not be available for years.
In the meantime, skeptics question whether the treatment is truly helpful, and whether doctors in Illinois will provide the needed authorization for children to take the drug.
Physicians will be hesitant to put their name behind authorization for a child to take an experimental treatment, said Dr. Joel E. Frader, a bioethicist and pediatrician at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago.
“I know there are a lot of parents who feel desperate, and my heart certainly goes out to them,” he said. “In Illinois, there has been pressure put on the state legislature and the regulatory process to increase the scope of use for medical marijuana by families who look at this as their last hope.”
Others question whether the treatment is really helpful.
“There is good evidence of long-term harm of chronic marijuana use on the developing brain under 18 years of age,” said Dr. Leslie Mendoza Temple, a Chicago doctor who lectures on medical marijuana for the Illinois Academy of Family Physicians. Temple said the treatment is so experimental it should only “be considered when all other therapies have been exhausted and failed, and if the child is quite debilitated.”
Medical marijuana products are not yet available in Illinois. The state is still in the process of approving applications for cultivation centers and dispensaries. Industry experts anticipate patients will have access to medical marijuana by late spring or early summer.
Courtesy: WORLD News Service
Publication date: January 12, 2015