The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has asked the DEA to reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I drug down to Schedule II. The AAP is also said that medical marijuana should be available for children suffering from severe, debilitating, or life-threatening conditions.
The update to the AAP’s 2008 position came this morning and urged the DEA to remove marijuana from it’s list of Schedule I substances, where marijuana is accompanied by heroin, LSD, and ecstasy. By definition, the Schedule I classification of drugs says that the drugs have no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Furthermore, the DEA says, “Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.” This classification of marijuana has prevented years of medical research from taking place and now the AAP says it’s time for a change.
The rescheduling of marijuana would make it more available for doctors, researchers, and universities to study. The rescheduling of marijuana would be a huge leap forward for medical marijuana research, but in the eyes of the DEA, a Schedule II drug still has a “high potential for abuse…potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence.” The AAP is looks to be erring on the side of caution saying that they do not support the use of medical marijuana, but they think it’s time to start studying the efficacy of medical marijuana.
Additionally, the AAP says that they, “strongly support the decriminalization of marijuana use and encourage pediatricians to advocate for laws that prevent harsh criminal penalties for possession or use of marijuana.”
Seth Ammerman is a clinical professor in pediatrics at Stanford University and the coauthor of the AAP’s statement. Ammerman says, “Most people realize AAP advocacy is for the well-being of children. As pediatricians, we’re into prevention and early intervention. So having this voice will be important. We’re advocating for the kids and if it leads to research that establishes a benefit – whoever conducts the research – then what we’re doing could help improve pediatric care.”
Last February the Epilepsy Foundation also called for reclassification of marijuana to a lesser schedule. As more respected and influential organizations role out their support for the reclassification of marijuana, it seems to be only a matter of time before the DEA and the Obama administration acknowledge the hurdles that that they are creating for medical marijuana research.
Leesburg, Georgia | Chance Henry is a 12-year-old boy living in Leesburg, Georgia, about 200 miles south of Atlanta. He began having seizures soon after he was born, around the six week mark. At years old, Chances mother estimates he has suffered from around 3,000 to 4,000 seizures in his life. Frustrated with expensive and ineffective medicines, Chase and his mother are looking to non-psychoactive CBD oil derived from the cannabis plant for treatment.
However, in the state of Georgia, the medicine that could help to improve Chance’s life remains illegal. Just this week Governor Nathan Deal all but threw away a proposed medical marijuana bill in the state. Rep. Allen Peake will be establishing a new bill that would allow possession of CBD oil in the future; that is if residents had a way to legally grow cannabis and extract the oils.
For now, Chance’s only option for legal treatment is the slew of up to 15 prescription pills he takes per day. His mother Traci is working furiously find a way for Chance to access the CBD oil that he desperately needs. Traci says, “It’s very hard, because I know the side effects to them. I don’t even see sometimes how he functions, but he’s always smiling, he’s a loving child.”
Chance’s mother says that his worst day resulted in 26 seizures within a 24 hour period. “The side effects are dizziness, nausea. We have to have him tested yearly for liver damage, kidney damage. And with the cannabis oil there are no side effects,” Traci says.
She began researching the life-saving cannabis oil around 6 months ago and is still waiting for the medicine. “I just never thought it was attainable. I didn’t know until I really started researching that in 24 states, it’s legal.” Traci isn’t alone in her search for a treatment, as many as 150,000 residents in the state are afflicted by epilepsy.
Traci and Chance have a long road ahead of them to pass this much needed, life-saving legislation. Support is growing in the state for access to the non-psychoactive CBD oil, but legislation is slow to catch up. Meanwhile organizations like Georgia Hope are doing what they can to increase exposure to the issue. Measures to help Chance and other children like him are will within reach, but it’s up to lawmakers use compassion and reason to pass new legislation.
If you’re a Georgia resident and would like to make a difference, you can email Governor Nathan Deal here.
In the United Kingdom, approximately 40,000 children have been diagnosed with epilepsy, and many do not receive relief from the strong pharmaceuticals on the market today. In an attempt to further treatment education, trials will begin for a new epilepsy treatment medication, called Epidiolex, in several locations throughout the United Kingdom.
Epidiolex is a purified cannabis extract containing only the cannabinoid, cannabibiol (CBD). It does not contain any amount of the psychoactive cannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is known to produce a feeling of being “high.” Cannabidiol (CBD) is the cannabinoid that has been showing positive results in the treatment of many debilitating medical conditions including epilepsy. CBD trials in the United States have shown that the cannabinoid can reduce the frequency and severity of epileptic seizures.
Facilities participating in the trial include the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Glasgow, Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, Edinburgh University’s Muir Maxwell Epilepsy Centre, and the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.
When asked about the study, Dr. Richard Chin, Director of the Muir Maxwell Epilepsy Centre explained,
“Many children with serious forms of epilepsy do not respond to the medications that we currently have available. We need new means of treating these conditions so that we can give back some quality of life to these children and their families.”
The trials, funded by the creator and manufacturer of Epidiolex, GW Pharmaceuticals, have been approved to begin enrolling children suffering from the severe form of epilepsy known as Dravet Syndrome in facilities in Scotland and England. These studies are specifically seeking participants who have not seen results from commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals. In each set of ten participants, eight will be treated with Epidiolex, and two participants will be given a placebo instead. This phase of the trial will last for a total of twenty-one days. Out of thirty participants, twenty-four will be treated with one of three different dosage amounts of the CBD medication. The purpose of this phase of the study is to determine the ideal dosage for children suffering from Dravet Syndrome.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved trials for this same medicine, Epidiolex, in the United States last month. The FDA also approved a study of cannabidiol (CBD) oil, derived directly from cannabis plants, to begin at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. These trials are not starting soon enough, as many children have already lost their lives to epilepsy without ever having the chance to try cannabinoid therapy because it is illegal throughout much of the world.
photo credit: mnepilepsy