Controversial Cannabis Use for Sick Girl, 7

Dr. Caroline Hastings said she hopes parents won't get the idea that giving young children a joint to smoke is the right thing to do.

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    Dr. Caroline Hastings said she hopes parents won't get the idea that giving young children a joint to smoke is the right thing to do. NBC Bay Area's Cheryl Hurd reports. (Published Monday, Nov. 26, 2012)

    A story about a 7-year-old girl in Oregon whose parents gave her marijuana to help fight an aggressive form of leukemia is making the rounds of water cooler talk, from lay people to doctors.

    Dr. Caroline Hastings, a pediatric oncologist at Children's Hospital in Oakland, told NBC Bay Area on Monday that she hopes parents won't get the idea that giving their young children a joint to smoke is necessarily the right thing to do. Questions remain, she said, because there is no clearcut answer yet on how much marijuana might be safe to use with a child.

    “I don’t think it’s correct to use cannabis in this way," Hastings said. "The most effective way to use medication like this is in concert with medical team to make sure that there’s no interference with any other medication to treat the underlying disease and to make sure it’s safe.”

    She added: "It’s not used to treat cancer as the article may indicate. It’s used safely to treat nausea induced by chemotherapy.''

    The article to which Hastings is referring was published in The Oregonian, and describes Mykayla Comstock's daily routine of swallowing a marijuana capsule twice a day, or eating a marijuana-laced ginger snap or butter when "she can't sleep or eat," the article states. She is one of 52 children in the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program.

    Oregon's law requires no monitoring of a child's medical marijuana use by a pediatrician. The law instead invests authority in parents to decide the dosage, frequency and manner of a child's marijuana consumption. The state imposes no standards for quality, safety or potency in the production of marijuana. The article states that Mykayla's father was upset when he noticed his daughter was stoned.

    Hastings said she has used medical marijuana with young children before, but she said that's not the norm: There are usually other medications with which to treat nausea.

    Still, she said she's open to its use, as long as its used wisely, with the input of a medical team.

    "Parents have inquired about using cannabis...we’re open to that and make sure they work with us.

    That way we can prescribe a safe form of the drug. It's not against the law to use cannabis but for children it needs to be a prescribed amount that’s safe for their size and age that’s the piece that may be missing here."

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