Editor’s note: This commentary is provided by the Medical Marijuana Education and Research Initiative (MMERI) of Florida A&M University.
The passage of the Florida’s Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014 was inspired by a young epileptic girl whose seizures decreased in frequency and severity after being treated in Colorado with cannabidiol (CBD) oil. The successful treatment of Charlotte Figi with “Charlotte’s Web CBD” triggered a widespread movement to legalize low-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) CBD products in all 50 states. Florida’s 2014 medical cannabis law became known as the “Charlotte’s Web law.”
Qualified medical marijuana physician, Dr. David Berger, says Charlotte’s Web law helped parents of children with certain debilitating medical conditions, particularly epilepsy, discover cannabinoids as an effective alternative to pharmaceutical drugs.
Dr. Berger is one of the first board-certified pediatricians in Florida to specialize in pediatric cannabis therapy, and he has treated thousands of children with qualifying conditions.
“Parents are looking for less medication and success,” says Dr. Berger, who treats children and adults at his Wholistic Pediatrics & Family Care practice in Tampa. “I often hear about a patient who’s no longer having seizures, or their seizures come less frequently and with less intensity” after going on a recommended low-or-no THC cannabis treatment regimen.
Dr. Berger says he takes a “very individualized approach” to treating patients who have obtained a Florida medical marijuana card, but “I always recommend, always start with CBD first. I would never start a child or, really, anybody on THC first.”
As an added protection for medical marijuana patients under age 18, Florida Statute 381.986, the law governing medical cannabis protocols, mandates that a second physician must support the treating doctor’s recommendations.
CBD products have come a long way since Florida enacted Charlotte’s Web law and, a few years later, legalized medical marijuana. In addition to the usual oral oil applications, cannabinoids can be administered through chewable gummies, nasal spray, vape inhaler, timedrelease skin patch, as well as by other methods.
Parents needn’t worry about doctors recommending smokable cannabis products to treat children under age 18 because that’s prohibited under the state’s medical marijuana law “unless the patient is diagnosed with a terminal condition . . . and a second physician who is a board-certified pediatrician concurs with such determination.”
‘A total game-changer’
Andrea Anderson’s young son was diagnosed with a severe form of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). “He was put on pharmaceuticals in kindergarten,” she says. “I really didn’t want to go that route, but he was really struggling in school.”
The side effects of the drugs were so troubling that Anderson began looking into using cannabis as a medicine and says she learned the most from the California nonprofit Whole Plant Access for Autism. She says that experience led her to become a certified cannabis consultant and start Canna Crusader Wellness in Tallahassee to help children and adults improve their health and wellness with medical cannabis.
She can point to her son’s progress as a medical marijuana patient as a success story. Now 11, he has been pharma free for three years, relying instead on a combination of CBD and cannabigerol (CBG) treatments to help suppress the effects of ADHD.
“It’s been a total game-changer,” Anderson says of the impact the non-THC CBD-CBG treatments have had on her son’s health. “We don’t have the rage and the headaches and all the side effects anymore.”
Dr. Berger, who does not treat Anderson’s son, says that ADHD is treatable with medical cannabis in Florida even though it’s not expressly listed as a qualifying condition. It is considered a chronic debilitating ailment similar to one or more of the other conditions on the list.
“People who have ADHD have a similar debilitating condition as people with HIV-associated neuro development,” he says, adding he has seen good results with CBD treatments for autism.
As a word of caution, Anderson recommends that parents who may be interested in CBDstyle treatments for their children get them certified for a medical marijuana card, even though many products can be purchased without it.
“I think it’s advisable to get their card anyways, because even in the legal cannabis states there has been cases where families have had to jump through Department of Children and Families investigations just for giving their child CBD, which is legal in all states, but it’s different when you’re giving it to a minor,” she says. “Those child endangerment laws can be a little bit of a gray area.”
Visit https://bit.ly/cannabisandkids to watch MMERI’s Conversations on Cannabis Virtual Forum featuring Dr. David Berger and cannabis mom Andrea Anderson on YouTube.
For more information on medical marijuana and to sign up for the MMERI newsletter, go to http://mmeri.famu.edu.