The Current

Medical Marijuana for Kids?

Parents of children with severe epilepsy urge Health Canada to make a promising drug immediately available; a special strain of medical marijuana.
Parents of children with severe epilepsy often stand by helplessly as their children endure multiple seizures. Some believe there is a remedy, a special breed of marijuana, and one Canadian parent moved to Colorado to get it.

A plant extract that may help children with epilepsy is controversial, partly because of the plant it comes from -- a special breed of marijuana.

Two years ago, Paige Figi signed a "do not resuscitate" order for her daughter Charlotte. Charlotte was five at the time and suffering from a rare, life-threatening form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome.

Charlotte had dozens of violent seizures every day. Sometimes she stopped breathing. And she had to be resuscitated more than once. Paige and her husband Matt tried everything doctors prescribed; nothing worked. Then, they tried medical marijuana.


The Netherlands became the world's first
country to make cannabis available as a
prescription drug in pharmacies.
(Reuters/Guido Benschop)

Charlotte's parents didn't give her just any strain of marijuana. It's one specifically engineered to be exceptionally low in THC, the compound that produces the "high." And Charlotte doesn't have to smoke it either. Her parents get it as an extract called Cannibidiol. They mix it with olive oil and add it to her food.

The strain of marijuana Charlotte uses is now known as "Charlotte's Web" in her honour. There haven't been any clinical trials yet. And it's only available in Colorado.

    But other parents of children with Dravet Syndrome are doing whatever it takes to get their hands on it. Two months ago, Barry Pogson and his wife Shannon moved from Toronto to Colorado so they could get Cannibidiol for their 13-month-old daughter. Barry Pogson was in Denver.

    Dr. Shackelford oversaw Charlotte's treatment with Cannibidiol. He was also in Denver.

    Arthur Schafer says there are serious ethical concerns associated with administering medical marijuana to children. He is the Director of the University of Manitoba's Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics. He was in Winnipeg.

    This segment was produced by The Current's Gord Westmacott

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