Pubdate: Sat, 03 Jan 2015
Source: Honolulu Star-Advertiser (HI)
Copyright: 2015 Associated Press
Author: Carla K. Johnson, Associated Press


CHICAGO (AP) - Randy Gross hopes a new law allowing children into 
Illinois' medical marijuana program will reunite his family, nearly a 
year after his wife moved to Colorado so their son could receive a 
controversial treatment to ease his epileptic seizures.

Gross lives and works in Illinois. His wife, Nicole, moved with their 
two sons so their 8-year-old could legally swallow a quarter-teaspoon 
of marijuana oil each day. While the medical evidence is thin, some 
parents - including the Grosses - say marijuana works for their 
children and they're willing to experiment.

"We can tell he's feeling better," Nicole Gross said of their son, 
Chase, who also has autism and uses sign language. "He puts four or 
five signs together. He'll sign, 'brother go downstairs play.' ... He 
engages more, makes better eye contact. If he notices something funny 
on his TV show, he'll clap and pat you on the back."

The boy formerly suffered abrupt "head drop" seizures - at least one 
every two minutes, she said. Now 20 minutes go by, sometimes 30 
minutes, between seizures, she said.

The dark green, pungent oil comes from a hybrid marijuana strain 
called Charlotte's Web, which was cultivated by a Colorado company to 
be heavy in a compound called CBD and low in THC, the ingredient that 
gets people high. It hasn't been tested in clinical trials for 
effectiveness or safety, but it will be legal in Illinois under a law 
that took effect Thursday.

Sorting truth from hype is difficult. CBD shows enough promise that 
two drug companies are studying it for childhood seizures with 
support from U.S. regulators, but those results will take years. For 
now, mainstream medicine regards Charlotte's Web as a folk remedy 
deserving of caution.

"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 suburban Chicago doctor who has given accredited lectures 
about medical marijuana for the Illinois Academy of Family Physicians.

She considers the scientific evidence sparse, so "in general, this is 
a medicine only to be considered when all other therapies have been 
exhausted and failed, and if the child is quite debilitated."

Under emergency rules, the Illinois Department of Public Health 
announced in December, young patients will be able to use medical 
marijuana for any of the nearly 40 health conditions already 
authorized for adults, although some - like agitation of Alzheimer's 
disease - aren't childhood conditions.

Children will be required to get written certification from two 
doctors. Adult patients need just one doctor to sign off.

Illinois doctors will be reluctant to sign children's forms, and for 
good reason, said Dr. Joel E. Frader, a Northwestern University 
bioethicist and palliative care pediatrician at Lurie Children's 
Hospital in Chicago. Signing means a doctor believes there will be a 
therapeutic benefit that outweighs the risks.

"I know there are a lot of parents who feel desperate, and my heart 
certainly goes out to them," Frader 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."
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