As more states legalize marijuana for medical use, one of the lesser-known repercussions is that sick children now often have access to it too, and the responsibility for deciding when it’s appropriate, the dosage and the monitoring is usually left solely with a parent.

Case in point: The Oregonian this week published a story about a 7-year-old girl fighting leukemia who regularly takes cannabis oil.

Mykayla Comstock is one of more than 50 minors in Oregon alone who are approved to receive medical marijuana. Her case is unique because of her young age and because her divorced parents do not agree.

Comstock’s mother encourages use of the drug. Her father has said he’s worried it will impair her cognitive development and has gone so far as to call child welfare officials.


Studies have suggested that marijuana can impair brain development. At the same time, many cancer patients have attested to how the drug eases the side effects of chemotherapy.

Instead of talking these issues out with a doctor, however, the primary parent, in this case the mother, is the authority.

Because of federal law, doctors cannot prescribe marijuana. So, most of the laws, including one in the District, hold that a parent, not a pediatrician, has the responsibility for deciding the frequency and dosage for their child.

Is this too much of a responsibility?

Comstock’s mother told the Oregonian that she herself uses marijuana daily to help with nausea and is an avid believer in its healing power.

Many supporters of legalization back this view as well.

“It is important to remember that there are many medicines, both over the counter and prescription, to which minors have greater access and which are far more dangerous than marijuana,” Morgan Fox, the communications manager for the Marijuana Policy Project, wrote to me.

“While any parent should be mindful of the short- and long-term effects any medicine might have on their children, there is no reason to hold medical marijuana to a different standard,”

There is no such consensus in the medical community.

Doctors told the Oregonian that they might not be as concerned if Comstock was an older teen, but little is known about the effects of marijuana on childhood development. Meanwhile, the American Academy of Pediatrics is considering publishing a resolution calling for a ban on children using the drug for any purpose.

What do you think? Should children be eligible for medical marijuana use? If so, who should monitor it?

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