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Navigating the world of pediatric cannabis treatments can be difficult. With little regulation, thousands of unfamiliar strains and products, and loads of contradictory advice, it’s easy to become frustrated and confused. This segment of our Children and Marijuana series seeks to help you steer the cannabis conversation in the right direction.  

These tips are meant for information purposes only and are not steadfast medical advice. We encourage you to talk to a trusted medical professional about all of these tips, and always let a medical professional know when you make changes to your child’s treatment plan. Without further ado, here are some tips for staying safe with pediatric cannabis.

1. Do your research

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Different medical conditions may require different cannabinoids. Certain conditions might respond best to different forms of medical cannabis. It’s not uncommon for leukemia patients, for example, tend to use a combination of cannabis oil along with some gummies or treats to further manage pain.

Often times, both the cannabis oil and the gummies contain both psychoactive THC and non-psychoactive CBD. Other conditions like epilepsy are often treated with extractions from high CBD strains.

To make matters even more complicated, some patients don’t respond to either THC or CBD. But, many do respond to cannabinoid acids like THCa. THCa and CBDa are the precursors to activated THC and CBD. Raw, unheated, and untreated cannabis is filled with THCa and CBDa. It isn’t until the cannabis is harvested, dried, aged, and heated that the plant becomes psychoactive.

CBD is always non-psychoactive, but you can consume significantly higher concentrations of the compound when it is kept in its acid form. That is when the marijuana is kept raw.

If you’re considering medical cannabis treatment for your child, it might be good to spend some quality time browsing around for information on what treatments have been effective for other children with a similar condition. Calling around to a few different medical dispensaries or care centers may also give you an idea of which ones have worked with children in the past, and what kinds of products are actually available in your area.

Common strains used for pediatric cannabis:

*Note: These are all high CBD strains. For suggestions on THC products, it’s best to talk to your local supplier or dispensary to see what strains they recommend for pediatric treatment.

2. Aim for tested products

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In an earlier segment of the Children and Marijuana series, we shared the story of Sam Vogelstein. Sam is now a teenager, but he has struggled with epilepsy most of his life. His parents had the connections and resources to acquire pharmaceutical-grade CBD from a British company, GW Pharmaceuticals. Before they decided to go that route, they tried different CBD products from a local collective. They ran into a few unexpected issues. Sam’s father, Fred Vogelstein, explains their quest for the perfect medicine in a beautifully written editorial for Wired. He writes:

“For three days, Sam’s seizures went from what had been 10 to 20 an hour to about one every hour. The tincture was odd-looking, a bunch of cannabis leaves and stems in a brown mason jar marinating in oil. Using a syringe, we’d put a drop of the liquid on Sam’s tongue three times a day. It was supposed to be 20:1 CBD to THC.

But in July, coinciding with a new tincture, Sam’s seizures came roaring back. By the middle of the month he was having around 10 an hour. We tried increasing the dose. We tried tinctures bought at three medical cannabis dispensaries. They didn’t work either.

By mid-August we were thinking about putting Sam back on steroids. That was when the collective received test results for the latest batch of tinctures. They’d been advertised as having a 20:1 ratio of CBD to THC, but it turned out there was little CBD or THC in any of them. We also tested one of the other tinctures we’d bought from a supposedly reputable supplier. We’d been told it was 10:1 CBD to THC. It was really 3:1.” – Vogelstein

The lesson from this story? Cannabis medicines are not an exact science. Levels of beneficial cannabis vary greatly depending on where you go, who grew the product you’re using, and how the edible/extraction is made. Like with all botanical medicines, the cannabis plant only produces an abundance of cannabinoids when it is cultivated in optimal growing conditions.

The easiest way to eliminate some of the uncertainty is to try your best to purchase products that have been tested. Many medical marijuana states have cannabis testing labs, and reputable growers submit their products to get a sense of the THC/ CBD content and check for residual contaminants like pesticides and miticides.

Do some research to see if there are any cannabis testing labs in your state. If you’d like information on reputable suppliers in your area, contacting a testing lab may be able to help point you in the right direction.

3. Find an experienced doctor

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Not all doctors know their stuff when it comes to medical cannabis. This is another area where it would be good to do some research to read reviews, call around, and find someone in your region that has experience with recommending medical marijuana.

Typically, reputable naturopathic doctors are a good place to start. If you can find a doctor who specializes in naturopathic medicine as well as primary care, that’s even better. Someone with experience in naturopathic medicine may be more familiar with things like herbs and supplements than a traditional physician.

They may also be able to help with maintaining an appropriate diet over the course of treatment.

Needless to say, there are definitely some great doctors out there who don’t take a naturopathic approach. Contacting a local dispensary may help you find recommending doctors regardless of how they approach pediatric medicine.

Some helpful questions to get the conversation started might be:

  • Do you have experience recommending medical cannabis?
  • Do you have experience treating this particular condition?
  • Do you have experience incorporating cannabis into pediatric treatment plans?
  • Will you be able to help manage the interactions between cannabis and my child’s current medications?
  • How will you evaluate whether or not medical cannabis will help my child?
  • What do you know about the success rates in treating this pediatric condition with cannabis?

4. Build up to a therapeutic dose

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Treating any condition with marijuana can be a bit tricky. When you buy an applicator filled with cannabis oil, for example, it is a bit difficult to tell exactly how much your child needs. Will just one droplet work? What about a whole gram?

Unlike traditional pharmaceuticals, marijuana is not measured out with precise recommended doses based on condition and weight. This is one reason why finding a reputable doctor is so important. Based on your child’s medical history, they may be able to tell you how much you should be giving your child. A doctor will also be able to give you

A doctor will also be able to give you advice on how long you should stay at a lower dose and when to increase.

Regardless, it’s always good to start at the lowest possible dose and work up over time. Starting low will give you an idea of how your child tolerates the plant, and will help prevent you from automatically giving more than is necessary. A quality collective will also be able to help you titrate up by providing you with information about the products your using and how others have reacted to them.

5. Work with your dispensary/access point

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After you’ve found a dispensary or collective that has high-quality products, don’t be afraid to mine them for information. The more open and honest you are with your access point, the more they will be able to help you. They’re the ones that have regular access to a variety of vendors and growers, so they’ll know what products are out there and who is growing strains that may be most beneficial for your child’s condition. If they know about your child’s condition and what kinds of products you’re looking for, they may also be able to acquire some of those products for you.

If they know about your child’s condition and what kinds of products you’re looking for, they may also be able to acquire some of those products for you.

In some states, different collectives grow their products themselves. In these cases, it’s even more important to learn a bit about their growing practices and inquire about what strains or products that would most help your particular case. Always opt for an access point that regularly tests their cannabis. You might also want to find dispensaries that grow

You might also want to find dispensaries that grow organic marijuana, as it reduces the risk of pesticides or other contaminants that may have a negative effect on your child’s health. This is especially true in children with compromised immune systems.

Collectives that offer house products and strains may also be able to help you access fresh fan leaves. Fresh fan leaves are a good source of either THCa, CBDa, or both. These are good options if you’d like to use cannabis in smoothies or juice the leaves, which many people find effective.

Some questions to ask your access point:

  • How often do you work with pediatric patients?
  • Do you grow your own product, or do you source from other growers?
  • Do you offer organically grown cannabis?
  • How often do you test your products? OR Do you sell products that have been tested?
  • Are these high CBD strains/edibles/cannabis oil products regularly in stock?
  • How can I work with you to implement the best treatment plan for this condition?
  • How would you recommend dosing with this product?

6. Take notes

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Marijuana is a surprisingly complicated plant. Not only does the medical value of a plant depend heavily on its growing conditions, but each individual strain has a unique cannabinoid profile. There are a lot of strains. Since things are so variable, it may be good to record what products you’re using and what strains you have given your child and how they responded to them. This can help you determine what products work better than others, and what strains or combinations seem to help your child the most.

Since things are so variable, it may be good to record what products you’re using and what strains you have given your child and how they responded to them. This can help you determine what products work better than others, and what strains or combinations seem to help your child the most.

Some strains may also have side effects like sleepiness, headaches, or even anxiety. If your child experiences any undesirable side effects, it will be helpful to have some information on what that particular product was. Switching to another strain or even opting for a different therapeutic cannabinoid might check back some of these issues.

Taking notes is also a great way to track any behavior or cognitive changes in your child after introducing cannabis medicines. You might find that they respond poorly to THC, or that it has odd impacts on their mood or cognitive function. If this is the case, switching to a CBD strain or opting for dietary cannabis containing THCa or CBDa might work better.

A lot really depends on the quality of the products you’re getting, the type of cannabis you’re using, and your child’s condition. Some of the medications your child is taking may also interact with medical cannabis. A doctor will be able to help you sort out which symptoms are caused by which medication.

As we mentioned before, these tips are intended for informational purposes only. Changing and mixing medications can have extremely powerful effects on your child, so it’s always best to consult a doctor before switching things up. Hopefully, the things mentioned in this article will help you have informed conversations with your medical providers and cannabis access points.

Never be afraid to ask your care team tough questions about therapeutic marijuana. Your child’s health comes first!

Do you have any tips for those interested in pediatric cannabis treatments? We’d love to hear them! Share them with us on social media or in the comments below.

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