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Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

Is medical marijuana ready for the children’s ward?

Children have moved to the forefront of the battle over marijuana in Michigan and across the country.

One of the biggest issues regarding marijuana last year was when Michigan Child Protective Services removed a six-month-old child from the family home for because her parents are medical marijuana patients and caregivers. Baby Bree Green is back with her parents after a three-month separation, but, it was a travesty that her parents, one who suffers from epilepsy and the other with multiple sclerosis, even had to go through that legal battle.

Still, some state lawmakers have chosen to pursue this line of legal action in SB 736, which is under review in the senate before going to the floor for a vote. Under its provisions, anyone who has a medical marijuana card and a child living in their home is subject to a judge’s review to deem if the parent actually needs the medication. It also allows judges to have CPS remove the children of medical marijuana patients from their homes

This is an outrageous scapegoating of marijuana patients. The state is saying “We will take your children away if you use marijuana,” when the parents are legally using a state-sanctioned medication.

Another Michigan child making waves in medical marijuana circles is Alysa Erwin, who lives in the northern Lower Peninsula. Erwin was diagnosed with anaplastic astrocytoma — brain cancer — in 2011, when she was 14. Her cancer was the so-called “ivy” or “spider web” kind that is spread throughout the brain, making radiation therapy impossible. Her prognosis was that with chemotherapy she might live 18 months.

After a round of chemo, Erwin was so sick that her parents felt like going through this to keep her for a few more months was ridiculous. Then the girl’s grandfather taught the Erwins about Rick Simpson’s hemp oil to treat the cancer. Hemp oil is a highly concentrated substance produced from marijuana. Erwin’s parents stopped the chemo treatments and gave her hemp oil so that at least she could be comfortable during the time she had left. In January 2013 doctors declared Alysa cancer free; an October MRI found the same result. The teenager has begun speaking in support of hemp oil at public events.

Marijuana also reduces seizures in epileptics. Fox 2 Detroit ran a feature on Jan. 22 about Detroit-area children who have epilepsy and their mothers who are fighting for the right to medicate their children. One mother said her son’s seizures from Dravet syndrome (a form of epilepsy) dropped from several times a day to once a week.

The most widely known child patient came to light because of CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who last summer wrote an editorial for the cable network’s website, titled “Why I changed my mind on weed.” In the piece Gupta apologized for having dismissed medical marijuana in the past.

One case he discussed was that of a three-year-old child who suffered 300 seizures each week. After her parents began treating her with marijuana rich in CBD, her seizures were reduced to about two or three per month. Gupta followed that editorial with a highly rated hour-long CNN special on the subject that garnered headlines around the world.

These developments call into question the effect of marijuana on the brains of young people. A study done in New Zealand, its results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2012, found a negative effect. People who were heavy marijuana users by age 18 were found to drop of about 8 points in IQ later in life. Other researchers question those results.

That’s a cautionary bit of information and one that anti-marijuana advocates have seized upon. However, no one on the legalization side is claiming that young people should be using marijuana. In Colorado and Washington State where voters chose to legalize it, the rules are that you have to be 21 or older.

These children are part of the final frontier in the fight over marijuana. Those against it want to save children from the scourge of drugs. Those who support medical marijuana are finding that it is effective in some cases where nothing else works. That is indeed another issue we have to work out.

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