Over the past two decades, legal medical cannabis has gone from being a pipe dream among dedicated stoners home growing a few plants in their spare bedrooms to a money-making juggernaut for 36 states and 4 U.S. territories, with more states on the way. According to the Marijuana Policy Project, there are more than 4 million medical cannabis patients all over the U.S. An often overlooked portion of those cannabis medicine patients are minors under the age of 18 dealing with conditions like cancer, epilepsy, autism, and other chronic conditions.
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We here at Leafwell have a goal to simplify the often complicated rules, laws, and regulations surrounding minors and their caretakers in legal states across the country. Parents and guardians of children who are benefiting from medical cannabis products have wondered, What’s the safest and most effective way for my child to consume the medicine that is upgrading their life experience? This article will break down the science around how cannabis impacts minors, which consumption methods are best for those under the age of 18, and why those methods are the way to go.
How Smoking Impacts Minors
Unlike back in the 1920s, modern science has come a long way to revealing the damaging impacts of smoking any type of organic matter upon your overall health. That harmful impact is deeper and harsher when it is sustained by children’s brains, lungs, and overall bodies, which are still developing.
According to the CDC, smoking as a minor and as a young adult can reduce overall lung function, stunt lung growth, and lead to early cardiovascular damage. On top of that, multiple researchers and organizations have acknowledged links between consistent smoking of cannabis as a minor and lower cognitive ability later in life, inhibited brain development, and behavioral problems.
Okay, smoking is bad for your overall health. That’s why, as a general rule, so many health guidelines from around the world urge cannabis users to avoid smoking burnt cannabis due to potentially lasting harm on the lungs and respiratory system.
Many of those same governments that discourage smoking cannabis flower would tend to recommend other ingestion methods if they have a medical program or any other cannabinoid-based medication available on prescription, such as tinctures, topicals, inhalers or low-dose edibles and pills/capsules as the safest and healthiest way to consume cannabis, if they recommend it at all.
We used Canada’s guidelines as an example before. Here’s a look at its guidelines that endorsed edibles, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, as the best way to benefit from medical cannabis therapeutics.
More and more health-conscious people, world-class athletes, and minors with medical cannabis cards are opting for tinctures and edibles as a healthier, smoke-free alternative to achieve the benefits of cannabis with fewer potential health risks to the heart, lungs, and cardiovascular system. After all, an illness that ravages the respiratory system will probably be aggravated in cannabis patients who choose to smoke, right? Naturally, any cannabis patient showing up at their local dispensaries with a respiratory condition will explore the edibles options that are available. That could be a key reason why sales for edibles grew by 60 percent across seven state markets, generating $1.23 billion in the process.
Tinctures, edibles, topical creams, highly-concentrated THC and CBD oils, and even inhalers and nasal sprays are all utilized to help children consume their medicine in the healthiest way possible. There’s also the option of topicals, pills and suppositories, as well as controlled doses of cannabis-infused edibles, so there’s plenty of options for avoiding puffing on those standard cannabis flower joints.
Getting Dosage Right
While medical cannabis has for sure come a long way in the past few decades, there are still challenges that medical patients face. Along with past and present issues associated with consistent, reliable access to their medicine, dosing is another massive challenge especially for those under the age of 18.
As we broke down above, smoking or vaping cannabis flower is direct and powerful but more damaging and inexact way to go, and edibles have obvious challenges due to ingredients, cannabis infusion methods, and a few other factors. Capsules, pills, and tinctures labels are often inaccurate, especially for CBD products. For those looking to find a more trustworthy company, check out our article on some of the better medical marijuana and CBD companies/products available out there.
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Even if the product you’re trying to dose is labeled properly, factors like weight, age, sex, tolerance to cannabinoids such as THC and CBD, internal biology, and other medications that the patient is taking factor in. Figuring out the proper dosage can be hard for anybody, especially for still-developing children who are changing more than the average adult. For improved dosage accuracy, establish a good relationship with a licensed cannabis doctor like the ones we work with here at Leafwell. Figuring out dosage is a real challenge. Working with professionals as closely as possible is super important for a patient who is a child.
However, as a general piece of advice, even though THC can affect a growing brain, for some of those suffering from the most chronic and debilitating conditions, controlle doses of THC can still be beneficial. Even low to moderate doses of THC can be useful for children suffering from conditions like cancer, autism and chronic pain associated with any number of health problems.
Even cannabinoids with little or no intoxicating effects, such as cannabichromene (CBC), cannabinol (CBN), cannabigerol (CBG) and beta-caryophyllene, on top of acidic cannabinoids like THCA and CBDA, can be useful for the treatment of nausea, chronic pain, anxiety and seizure disorders like epilepsy. They can also mitigate some of the negative effects of THC, and can be a far safer alternative to prescription opioids, sedatives, anti-psychotics and stimulants, which are unfortunately often prescribed even to young patients.
Put simply, everyone needs different doses and ratios of cannabinoids. There are some patterns across conditions and different demographics, but cannabis is like any other medicine in this regard. One size does not necessarily fit all.
As a general rule, we recommend the “slow and low” approach to dosing as a rule of thumb especially when it comes to patients under the age of 18. Get an understanding of which THC:CBD ratios (as well as other cannabinoids and terpenes) is required not only for the condition, but your child as well. Everyone has a unique endocannabinoid system (ECS), so what works for one person with their own condition, this does not always necessarily translate to someone else, even if it’s the same condition.
The Bottom Line
One of the fundamental reasons why a majority of all Americans think medical cannabis should be fully legalized and permitted is that it provides relief for some of the most vulnerable in society. Parents and guardians whose children are dealing with often painful, debilitating illnesses with no obvious routes of proper, effective treatment deserve the option of turning to medical cannabis for reliable, consistent relief. This is especially the case where otherwise harsh and addictive drugs may be prescribed.
It’s important that minor medical patients optimize the therapeutic experience of their medical cannabis, without the possible side effects and health concerns that come along with the standard joint.