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Medical marijuana legalization is spreading across the U.S., and as with all things drug, there are bits of concerns here and there. One of those concerns lies in the interlink between children and medical marijuana.

This concern is not primarily about medical marijuana for kids as much as it is about kids who accidentally consume medical marijuana and teenagers who actively seek and use cannabis edibles or vapes.

So, let’s get to it.

Children and Medical Marijuana: The Background

Medical marijuana for kids is not a new concept: it’s been around for over a decade, with availability restricted to children with complex medical conditions. For context, a 2013 survey found that 1.1% of 12th graders use medical marijuana from their prescription.

However, with increasing news reports of accidental marijuana consumption and marijuana abuse among young children and teenagers, it is imperative that parents deepen their understanding of the nuances between children and medical marijuana.

With a better understanding, parents can take proper actions to provide better care when using medical marijuana for kids or safeguard their medical marijuana from their curious kids and teenagers.

So, what are the risks of marijuana to children? What does the research say about the potential benefits of marijuana for children?

Children and Medical Marijuana: The Risks and Benefits

When most adults think of or discuss children and medical marijuana in a given context, the connotations are often negative, even when there’s an attempt to keep the thought process neutral.

The underlying fears feeding the negative connotations are often not unfounded, no thanks to cases of marijuana misuse among children. Therefore, it is not wise to write off the concerns as mere misgivings that fuel antimarijuana debates.

Still, it is important to point out that while potential risks exist, medical marijuana for kids also promises potential benefits.

The Potential Risks: What Are the Risks of Marijuana to Children?

Below are some likely risks every parent should bear in mind if they have medical marijuana at home or plan to use medical marijuana for kids.

Children Are More Inclined to Misuse Marijuana

A 2022 study by the Taylor & Francis Group, which examined the U.S. National Poison Data System up until 2020, found that adolescent marijuana abuse has increased by 245% since 2000.

The study noted 338,727 intentional misuse cases among children aged 6-18, with over 80% of the cases coming from children aged 13-18. Note that the study only accounts for emergency cases that were reported.

It is also interesting to note that edibles are the primary culprits in most cases.

Unlike smokeable marijuana, edibles do not hit right away. The risks of marijuana use in adolescents are heightened by the unscrupulous marketing of most edibles and other cannabis products as safe and attractive products for everyone.

Armed with the lack of knowledge on marijuana dosing, kids and adolescents tend to eat as many edibles as they can until they are satisfied – or none is left for them to eat.

What this usually means is that they end up with too much in their system, which could result in severe marijuana poisoning.

In a nutshell, always keep all forms of marijuana locked away from your children’s reach, even if they are MMJ prescriptions for your child.

The Side Effects of Marijuana on Kids May Be More Severe

Although there is insufficient research on the effects of marijuana on kids, there has been a significant increase in emergency cases that have to do with children and marijuana, especially teenagers.

Some of the side effects of marijuana include the following:

  • Impaired memory, cognition, or consciousness: hallucination, disorientation, delirium, delusion, lack of focus, difficulty solving problems, psychosis.
  • Impaired body movement: drowsiness, fatigue
  • Change in mood: agitation, irritability, lethargy, anxiety.

While most adults are able to sleep off some of the side effects of marijuana, the side effects are sometimes a little too much for a child’s body to handle.

It doesn’t help that most kids do not understand marijuana dosage and are more likely to consume as many marijuana products as they can. So, these side effects may be compounded, making for heavier-than-usual hits.

Also note that while marijuana effects may last for about 8 hours in adults, these effects can last for about 24-36 hours in children. Do not hesitate to contact your healthcare provider if you think your child is under the influence.

The Potential Risk of Mild Cognitive Decline

Slowed brain development is one of the long-standing arguments in children and medical marijuana debates.

Truthfully, there is not enough human research to back this point. However, certain indicators point to the likelihood of a connection between the frequent use of marijuana at a young age and negative effects on the functional connectivity of the brain.

Studies nameTHC as the primary culprit altering brain sensitivity in persons under 21. It helps to note that the brain is in a developmental state from the prenatal stage until the age of approximately 21 years.

The Potential Benefits of Medical Marijuana for Kids

Using medical marijuana for kids has shown some great potential benefits in studies assessing children, youths, and cannabis.

So, while asking, “What are the risks of marijuana to children?” you should also be open to knowing the potential benefits of medical marijuana products for children.

Medical Marijuana and Autism in Children

Admittedly, evidence supporting the use of medical marijuana for managing autism symptoms in children is limited, as research on autism in children and medical marijuana is scarce.

However, of the few research that exists, the results have been positive.

In 2021, a group of researchers scoured scientific research platforms to source and examine all scientific research that had to do with some young individuals (0-18 years) with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and medical cannabis.

Overall, the studies reported that 61% to 93% of the subjects on medical marijuana showed substantial symptom and behavior improvement, with only 27% of the subjects exhibiting adverse effects.

In a 2019 study evaluating the use of oral CBD in children with ASD, researchers reported that hyperactivity improved in 68.4%, rage attacks improved in 67.6%, sleep improved in 71.4%, and anxiety improved in 47.1% of the children.

Medical Marijuana for Kids with Epilepsy/Seizure

Since the FDA approval of Epidiolex – a CBD-based drug – for the treatment of rare and severe forms of epilepsy, people have been more receptive to talking about children and medical marijuana.

There are abundant reports from parents about their kids’ health improving after giving CBD-rich cannabis products for epilepsy.

In one survey of 117 parents of kids with epilepsy, 85% of the parents reported a significant reduction in seizure frequency. 14% also reported complete elimination of seizures.

Similarly, they noted that CBD exposure barely had side effects, as 63%, 71%, and 53% of the respondents reported improved mood, alertness, and sleep, respectively.

Medical Marijuana for Kids with ADHD

There are anecdotal reports of persons with ADHD using medical cannabis to manage ADHD symptoms such as impulsivity and hyperactivity. Similarly, some parents of kids with ADHD claim that cannabis has helped improve their child’s condition.

However, unlike ASD and epilepsy, where there are some studies to show evidence of the potential benefits of marijuana for kids, there’s no concrete study on ADHD children and medical marijuana.

Researchers fear that since cannabis and ADHD cause similar effects, giving marijuana to a kid with ADHD can worsen their condition. Irrespective, some parents claim that it does wonders for them.

At Elevate Holistics, we are on the side of skipping MMJ for kids with ADHD.

How Minors Can Safely Enjoy MMJ

When you think “children and medical marijuana,” your mind should lean towards CBD-rich cannabis products. Always keep THC-rich products out of the equation.

For safe results, you should talk to your doctor, your child’s pediatrician, or a certified medical marijuana doctor to get professional guidance.

Usually, a safe measure for minors is a medical cannabis solution with whole plant extracts containing CBD and THC in a 20:1 ratio or purified CBD and THC in the same ratio.

This is similar to the cannabis product used in the successful management of ASD symptoms in kids in a controlled trial. It’s also the case in the instance of a minor individual who was prescribed CBD:THC 20:1 oil for the management of ADHD symptoms.

The dosage should be within the range of 5.5mg/kg/day or as prescribed by a certified health professional.

Note: all administrations of medical marijuana to your child must come from their own prescription, not yours or some random cannabis product you bought over the counter.

Avoid products that are rich in delta-9 THC, THC-O, delta-8 THC, and every other synthetic cannabis product as much as you can.

Can You Get a Medical Card if You’re Under 18?

Yes, you can!

Under the guidance of their parents or caregiver, children less than 18 years of age (and have qualifying medical conditions) can get a medical card.

The parents or caregivers also have to visit the dispensary to buy the needed MMJ for the child, as minors are not allowed inside dispensaries.

If you are here, you’re probably considering getting an MMJ card for your child or ward and are now well-informed on “What are the risks of marijuana to children?”

Well, there’s more to learn about getting a medical card for minors.

Click here to learn everything there is to learn about getting an MMJ card for a minor.

Booking Minor Appointments With Elevate Holistics

At Elevate Holistics, booking appointments for medical marijuana evaluation is always quick, easy, and cheap.

We help patients – both adults and children – in all the weed-legal states get their medical marijuana cards online without stress.

Right now, we can only offer minor appointments in a few states; however, feel free to reach out to us with your story and we will be happy to help in any way that we can. After all, our goal is always to give MMJ to those who need it.

Click here or the button below to book an appointment and get started.

Let MMJ give you the support you deserve -- no matter your age.

Elevate Holistics offers medical marijuana appointments for both adults and minors -- all online, in less than 30 minutes.

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Elevate Holistics’ process is quick, affordable, and done entirely online. It’s never been so easy.

About the author

Ally Hilbert is the Content and SEO Manager here at Elevate Holistics, working to publish and run Elevate’s blogs and landing pages, as well as conduct keyword research, competitor analysis, and more. After having brain surgery at the age of 17, Ally became fascinated with medical cannabis and its benefits, and, at 18, had her first CBD-related piece published. Today, she’s been writing about cannabis for the past six years, and simply can’t think of a better company to get to do it for. When she’s not writing or editing, Ally’s side-by-side with her pup Sadie in Seattle.
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