Cannabis: the Ideal Paediatric Medicine?

CANNABIS CULTURE – I was rewatching the documentary The Scientist, which looks at how Raphael Mechoulam and his team discovered tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and the endocannabinoid system (ECS). At the 33:30 mark, there’s a section titled “Hashish for Children”. 

To quote from the film:

“INTERVIEWER: So in 1995, you had an idea of testing THC on children.

RAPHAEL MECHOULAM (RM): It has been known for many years that cannabis can lower the [negative]effects of anti-cancer drugs. Anti-cancer drugs, many of them, cause terrible side-effects. And in children, unfortunately children get cancer as well, children vomit and want to vomit, nausea, they’re really in bad shape, and they cry all the time and their parents are in a bad shape. Luckily, most of the children can be cured of the cancer, but the treatment is absolutely difficult.

We wanted to do a clinical trial on children. We did that with Professor Avramov, Aya Avramov. She was head of department of pediatric oncology in one of the Jerusalem hospitals, and we did a major study with THC given in oily drops under the tongues of children. Obviously, children cannot smoke, we had children who were not even one year old. We dropped, or she dropped, THC in olive oil under the tongue two or three times a day, small doses, during the anti-cancer treatment.

In the beginning, we wanted to do a double-blind study. Some of the children got the THC, some of the children got only the olive oil. After a week, she told me: “I’m not going ahead with that. I know who exactly is getting the THC, I know who is not getting it.” There was a complete separation. Those that didn’t get it continued to vomit, so she went ahead doing an open study, and she gave THC, pure THC, under the tongue, about 400 times, which means that those that were involved in the experiment got it every time they were treated with whatever they were being treated, and at the end we saw that we had a complete, complete block of vomiting, a complete block of nausea by a small amount of THC that did not cause any psychoactivity, nothing.

So here we had a complete therapeutic effect and we published that and again, essentially nothing happened. Finito, that was it. It’s still not being used in children.

INTERVIEWER: And you think it’s a good idea to use it for children?

RM: Well, I believe it’s an excellent idea because we help those children that suffer, but … I have no influence on oncologists.”

One of the main blocks when it comes to getting people to see cannabis as medicine is, “But I don’t want to get ‘high’ or ‘stoned’, and I especially don’t want that for my child.” Yet, even non-psychoactive amounts of THC has therapeutic effects, and is generally far safer and more well-tolerated than many current medications (something we have written about on these pages before). Then, we also have people like Alexis Bortell, who uses a mixture of CBD and THC for her epilepsy, attempting to take on the federal government and get cannabis removed from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA – a case that Alexis lost, sadly, but is being appealed). There are literally hundreds if not thousands of similar stories, from children and parents alike, saying “cannabis has helped”; and when you see a child going from tens or even hundreds of seizures a day to a handful every several months if that, or kids suffering from aggressive cancers going from having only a few months to live to going on to live healthy lives, it becomes difficult to argue that “cannabis should not be used for children.” Indeed, just this January, 2018, Ashley Surin of Illinois, has been allowed to take medical cannabis to school.

The vast range of benzodiazepines, barbiturates, opioids and many other harsh pharmaceuticals we already prescribe children looks quite insane – if not downright criminal – when we compare them to the effects and potential of cannabis. Furthermore, low doses of THC and non-psychoactive cannabinoids and terpenoids can be used, so the idea that “people just want to get kids stoned” holds no water. What we are fighting for here is official recognition that cannabis and its components may have massive medical applications for a huge range of conditions, and that it is of great harm to scientific discovery by having cannabis be illegal. Let’s hope Alexis’s appeal, as well as the huge number of cases in the US and around the world, are successful and get governments to finally admit that “marijuana is medicine”.


Featured photo courtesy National Geographic.

Cannabis Culture Magazine

Cannabis Culture is an activist magazine dedicated to liberating marijuana, freeing pot-prisoners around the globe, and bringing an end to the vicious worldwide war on drugs.