The Lesser of Two Evils: The Argument for Medical Marijuana Use in Children

July 25, 2013

(Author’s Disclaimer: This article is only written to bring awareness to the question of medical marijuana being used for children. My intentions are only to provoke thoughts and awareness so you can have more information to make a healthy decision for your child or children. This opinion also comes from a non-user of non-prescription drugs.)

Many arguments on the use of medical marijuana have been brought to the media’s attention in the last year, especially with the latest appeals from parents who say that it has helped their children with seizure disorders.

As a parent, I could have made this article very short and just listed the long list of side effects, including the long term effects, of the three drugs my two children take—but you didn’t want to read 12 pages of symptoms any more than I want to relive them. However if we did compare them to the list of side effects from marijuana—this might be a very open and closed case. I however, will be a wee more politically correct and give you more facts, so you can make your own conclusion.

Here’s the current score on state-by-state use of Medical Marijuana:

  • 18 states (and DC) allow the use of medical marijuana; however, use remains illegal under the federal law.
  • 6 states are pending on the legalization of medical marijuana. Those states include Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania
  • 4 states favor the legalization of Medical Marijuana.
  • The legalization of medical marijuana has failed in 12 states.

The evidence is overwhelming that medical marijuana can relieve certain types of pain, nausea, vomiting and other symptoms caused by illnesses such as Multiple Sclerosis, Cancer and AIDS.

Here are some popular arguments on marijuana use in children.

Concern: Smoking marijuana can cause cancer.

Argument: Why should our children have to smoke marijuana? The benefits of marijuana can be received through injection, food, or in a pill form—eliminating the concern of inhaling harmful smoke. It should also be noted that there are many medications approved by the FDA that already have cancer causing compounds. Unfortunately, many of the diseases that these medications are taken for have no cure, and very limited treatment options. Similarly, most of these medications have side-effects.


Concern: Sexual activity, violence, and instances of delinquency increased in teenagers who smoked marijuana.

Argument: This data came from recreational use and evaluated years of use, its also an incomplete study because these marijuana users could have also been using other recreational drugs. Of course, we can’t say that using a drug recreationally won’t cause social and behavioral issues, and we can’t say that if someone is already predisposed to violence, then violence under the influence of any drug is bound to occur. Again though, this is an issue of comparison. Frankly, I’d rather handle the issues of my child potentially facing behavioral issues—then writhing in pain or becoming impaired by long-term and dangerous side effects. As a parent, I can control my child’s predisposition to reckless activity—but I can’t take away his pain or suffering.


Concern: Prescribed use could lead to unprescribed use and accidental consumption in children.

Argument: When taking prescription drugs, one needs to be extremely careful. How many times have drugs been tampered with, over-dosed on, and traded without a prescription? With this logic we may as well make all prescriptions illegal. Again, if my child is in agonizing pain and I’m giving him painkillers to control that pain, how is that any different from a child becoming more likely to use the drug off-prescription than on it? It comes down to parenting and teaching our children about the needs of their bodies versus the temptation of addiction.


Concern: But Marijuana does have side-effects.

Argument: Side effects include “Unusual drowsiness, unsteady walking, some laughing, glassy eyes…” Side effects of prescription painkillers include “dizziness, drowsiness, fatigue, headache, confusion, skin rash, nausea, vomiting, constipation, sleep problems, weight loss, drug interactions, and risk of overdose.” I’m going to go with the one that makes my sick, convulsing, pain-riddled child a little unsteady walking.


Concern: Marijuana is a gateway drug that leads to increased usage of cocaine and heroin and drug dependence.

Argument: Again, this is a behavior that can be controlled and prevented. The continued use of prescription drugs with multiple and dangerous side effects too often cannot be contained. I can’t teach my child to not have another seizure, but I can educate him on recreational drug use.

How often have you sat down and watched a commercial on a drug being marketed and five minutes later—you’re still listening to the lengthy list of side effects?!

When the commercial is over you’re asking yourself: who the hell would take that? Sadly, we as parents of sick children have to give some of these prescribed drugs to treat symptoms even more devastating.

Then, the craziest thing is that you are given treatments to treat the side effects of these drugs!

I’m not advocating the use of medical marijuana to treat hang-nails and paper cuts. This isn’t a campaign to push marijuana to the forefront of drug store aisles with child-friendly packaging. This is an argument for the lesser of two evils. At the end of the day, I’m just a mom who has to sign off on the drug her four-year-old takes because one of the side effects is death. And my eight-year-old’s medication? It can cause suicidal thoughts.

When you sign your name on that dotted line and start making real choices about your children’s quality of life, your mind begins to open up just a little. And when the question stops being “how can I make my child feel a little bit better?” to “how am I going to keep my child alive and out of unimaginable pain without weakening him further?” you’d be surprised just how little sense any argument but relief and safe treatments make.

To reach the author:  Lisa Moreno-Dickinson, CEO, StopCAIDNow, [email protected]

What’s your take on medical marijuana use in children?

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