Pubdate: Thu, 24 Mar 2016
Source: New Haven Register (CT)
Copyright: 2016 New Haven Register


The state legislature's Public Health Committee approved what might 
be considered one of the most controversial proposals put before them 
in decades: medical marijuana for children.

The bill, which now moves to the House for a vote, would give minors 
with severe epilepsy and terminal illnesses access to non-smokable 
marijuana, but only with parental consent and the approval of two 
doctors. It would be prescribed in pill or liquid form. The other 
conditions included in the bill include cerebral palsy, cystic 
fibrosis, uncontrolled intractable seizure disorders, or irreversible 
spinal cord injury with objective neurological indication of 
intractable spasticity.

Only two other states - California and Colorado - have approved the 
treatment for children. Anecdotal evidence suggests that marijuana is 
effective in treating cancer and attention-deficit hyperactivity 
disorder, controls self-destructive rages in autistic children and 
stops epileptic seizures - a claim that is backed up by parents who 
are flocking to the two states to get treatment they believe will 
save their children's lives. As many as 30 percent of people with 
epilepsy - or about 1 million Americans - still have seizures while 
on Food and Drug Administration-approved treatments.

The Epilepsy Foundation is urging access to medical marijuana and a 
study performed by the American Academy of Neurology shows a drug 
derived from cannabidiol - a component in marijuana plants - produced 
a 50 percent reduction in seizures in children who were part of a study.

The game-changer might be Epidiolex, a non-psychoactive oil derived 
from cannabidiol. Cannabidiol provides the benefits of marijuana 
without producing the "high" people associate with it. Epidiolex is 
the first FDA-sanctioned drug to undergo scientific trials for this 
purpose. Legislatures in at least a dozen states including Kentucky, 
Florida, South Carolina and Wisconsin have or will consider bills 
about the marijuana oil. Utah has signed it into law and Alabama has 
passed the legislation and is awaiting the governor's signature.

Here in Connecticut, the state chapter of the American Academy of 
Pediatrics is behind the bill and Dr. William Zempsky at the 
Connecticut Children's Medical Center says it has "become clear to me 
that there are some of our most vulnerable patients who would truly 
benefit from the use of medical marijuana."

Lawmakers here are split - and with good reason, as children are involved.

State Sen. William Tong, D-Stamford, originally was against the idea. 
He said his position changed after listening to emotional appeals 
from children who suffer from debilitating conditions and their 
families, who argued during a March 13 public hearing that the 
treatment can help their children's illnesses. He now says the 
legislature should do everything it can to "give the kids whatever 
they need to get better."

But some Republicans on the committee are concerned with the method 
by which the marijuana would be ingested, how easily children would 
gain access to the prescription, and whether there is scientific 
proof the treatment would help each condition listed in the bill. 
State Rep. Doug Dubitsky, R-Canterbury, argues the bill leaves an 
open path for children to be prescribed medical marijuana needlessly.

Marijuana is widespread among millions of people who use it to get 
high. But it also is a drug around which the stigma is quickly 
dissolving as its use has been decriminalized in most states and it 
has been approved for medical and even recreational use in some.

Advocates believe drugs like Epidiolex are quickly changing the 
debate surrounding marijuana as a medicine for children, which soared 
into the national spotlight after the death of 9-year-old Anna Conte 
from New York, who had a form of epilepsy that caused her to have 
hundreds of crippling seizures a day.

Medical marijuana was approved to treat children in New York but Anna 
died waiting for the law to go into effect. Two other children with 
similar disorders also died waiting.

We should not let that happen here. Given the controversy that has 
always swirled around marijuana, approving its use for children is 
not an easy step for lawmakers to take. But, with medical evidence 
and sufficient regulations regarding its use in place, it is a step 
worth taking to help keep children pain-free and in some cases, alive.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom