Parents across the country are turning to medical marijuana to help their children who suffer from autism, epilepsy, debilitating seizures and other severe health conditions.
In most cases, however, the children are not smoking the drug. Instead, they are ingesting it in the form of cannabis oil. Some take fruit-flavored gel caps while others have the gel stirred into their yogurt or applesauce.
Typically, the cannabis oil is derived from medical marijuana that can be purchased legally in many states as long as the child carries a medical ID card issued by the state health department.
In New Jersey, Tina Marie DeSilvio creates the concoction for her daughter, Jenna, by soaking the marijuana buds in 180-proof alcohol. She allows that to evaporate into a thick substance that is then mixed into coconut oil. Jenna, who suffers from severe convulsions, can then ingest the mixture when it is mixed into her food. The 10-step process can even be found on Facebook.
While the parents of children like Jenna clearly believe the “tinctures” are helping their children, others would like to see a more scientific approach to creating the edible forms of the drug.
In Utah last year, a group of doctors and pediatric neurologists sent a letter to the state’s Controlled Substances Advisory Committee. The letter said the oils “should be available as soon as possible to Utah children with severe epilepsy. The substance is not psychoactive or hallucinogenic, it contains less THC than do other materials that can be legally purchased in Utah, and it has absolutely no abuse potential.” The letter points out that, once produced, the oils would be used only under the supervision of a doctor. The oils are marketed in Utah under the name Alepsia.
In New Jersey, though, such commercially produced edibles can still be hard to obtain. Governor Chris Christie, who originally signed a bill that made it easier for children to get the drugs, has said that he would veto any other bill that sought to expand the program.
Frustrated, some parents have left the state for Colorado, where the products are easier to obtain. Brian Wilson is one of those parents. His daughter, Vivian, suffers from life-threatening epilepsy.
"We're hoping we can come back to New Jersey in a year and a half," he said, hopeful that the state can get its medical marijuana products available to all children in need.