British Columbia

Doctors advised kids and cannabis don't mix

The Canadian Paediatric Society says doctors should not prescribe cannabis for kids because it could be harmful, despite common but unfounded perceptions marijuana is safe and effective.

'Marijuana mystique' has doctors in conundrum when it comes to kids and prescribing medical cannabis

The Canadian Paediatric Society is telling doctors not to prescribe cannabis to kids. (CBC)

There's been a lot of pot talk in Canada in recent years, and a lot of debate over the therapeutic benefits of medical marijuana.

But the Canadian Paediatric Society wants to make one thing perfectly clear: Doctors should not be prescribing cannabis to children.

"While there is growing evidence that cannabis can be used effectively for some medical purposes there is no evidence to support the use of medical marijuana on children," said Dr. Michael Rieder in a phone interview with CBC Vancouver. 

Rieder  is the lead author of a position statement Monday by the Canadian Paediatric Society.

He says the organization felt compelled to issue it because doctors are increasingly being asked about marijuana prescriptions for children. 

Possible harm

"Overall, there is insufficient data to support either the efficacy or safety of cannabis use ... in children, and an increasing body of data suggests possible harm," states the report.  

Rieder says there's no way to know how many children are being given medical marijuana in Canada because the prescriptions are not tracked.

He says general practitioners are faced with fighting a war of perceptions because pot proponents like to claim all sorts of benefits around medical marijuana when there is no hard research or solid evidence one way or the other when it comes to prescribing cannabis to children.

"The problem with marijuana is there's a mystique attached to it which gives people the impression that it must work and it must be safe," he said. "Neither of those two statements is true."

Because the potency of medical marijuana products varies widely, Reider says a second problem in prescribing it for children is knowing and controlling the dosage.

He says although dosage is something that is understood and controlled in every other prescription drug, when it comes to prescribing cannabis doctors have been left to try and figure it out themselves. 

People would think you've lost your mind

"If you shifted and looked at another drug and said, 'look at medical grade oregano'  — nobody in their right mind would ever license it the way the federal government licensed marijuana, which is really a transfer of the whole onus of prescribing safety and efficacy to the practitioner."

"It's like saying there's a chemotherapy drug here, you've got cancer so go ahead and use it. We're not going to tell you how much to use, or how long to use it, or what the side effects are. If you did, that people would think you've lost your mind, but yet we do this with marijuana."

Rieder admits there is "scant" anecdotal evidence cannabis might be beneficial to some children who suffer from extreme seizures. Some studies say there is growing evidence it can harm the developing brains of teens.

With files from Farrah Merali

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now