Is It Okay to Give a Seven-Year-Old Leukemia Patient Medical Marijuana?

Illustration for article titled Is It Okay to Give a Seven-Year-Old Leukemia Patient Medical Marijuana?

A seven-year-old girl in Oregon suffering from leukemia may soon be the focal point of a renewed debate about the need to regulate medical marijuana. Mykayla Comstock, stricken with a particularly aggressive strain of leukemia, is subjected to intensive chemotherapy treatments, which have the unfortunate side effects of making her viciously ill and keeping her awake at all hours of the night. So, to help Mykayla cope with the chemo, her mother has opted to give her a twice-daily dose of medical marijuana capsules, and, if Mykaylas feeling especially rough, a marijuana confection like a ginger snap or brownie.

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If your reaction to this is, "Erm..." that's probably what The Oregonian was initially going for when it ran this story. Her leukemia notwithstanding, Mykayla seems to be a discomfortingly precocious marijuana user, a fact that does not sit well with her father, Jesse Comstock, who now lives and works in North Dakota. He's worried about the effects of the drug on Mykayla's developing brain, and has actively tried (and failed) to stop her mother, Erin Purchase, from administering the capsules.

Mykayla, however, is one of 2,201 cancer patients authorized by the State of Oregon to use medical marijuana, and the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program already serves 52 children who have a qualifying medical condition, parental consent, and a doctor's approval. In other words, Mykayla's medical marijuana prescription is all on the level, but that hasn't stop people from emitting that "erm" sound from between their slightly parted lips when they read that a seven-year-kid may have up to 1.2 grams of cannabis oil in a 24-hour period, the equivalent, trumpets the Daily News, of smoking ten joints.

For Mykayla's part, she insists that the capsules help her "eat and sleep," although they do make her feel "funny," which seems like the sort of unnervingly juvenile adjective a kid uses after accidentally gobbling a bunch of brandy chocolates. Mykayla's mom and her boyfriend, Brandon Krenzler, regularly smoke weed themselves, and Krenzler is a grower (Mykayla's grower, to be more precise). Purchase is pretty open about her proclivity for marijuana — she used it while she was pregnant and when she was breastfeeding her second child, no problem. Jesse Comstock, however, is not so open-minded when it comes to giving the drug to kids, and is pretty nervous that his daughter may suffer negative long-term side effects from the cannabis capsules.

With a stirring endorsement for legalizing marijuana in the New York Times, it seems pretty clear that marijuana will become the next Coca-Cola of America, especially if we consider the fact that Coca-Cola is fast falling out of favor with people who'd rather not sprinkle poison all over their pancreases every day. What's less clear, however, are the effects of the drug on the developing human brain. A recent study, for example, suggested that smoking weed in adolescence hinders brain development and turns your average, smiling high school freshman into Otto the bus driver, which, depending on your capacity for abstract thinking, may not necessarily be a bad thing.

Mykayla is definitely a special case in the great American weed debate, but it's worth noting that there are other treatments for the nausea and fatigue she experiences as a result of chemo, and also that Oregon's medical marijuana law does not require a pediatrician to monitor a child's marijuana use. It'd take a pretty heavy hand to cast judgment on the way a mother chooses to (legally) ease the pain of her suffering daughter, but marijuana use at such a young age is liable to unnerve people who have only had personal experience with the drug as something to be enjoyed recreationally.

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Medical marijuana for a child with leukemia [The Oregonian]

Image via Gordon Swanson/Shutterstock.

DISCUSSION

southpaw1971
southpaw

The idea of her vaping, toking or hitting a bong is disturbing, but I see nothing wrong with administering medical marijuana via edibles or in a pill form. Mainly I wouldn't want her to damage her lungs through the more traditional methods.

And fuck what marijuana does to a child's brain development when it comes to treating a leukemia patient. Do you know what radiation does to a child's brain development? It shreds it. It destroys far worse than the highest dose of marijuana ever will. My sister was radiated to treat her leukemia, and it shredded her cerebellum. At twelve years old, she went from being in remission to stumbling, at first. Then, as the brain damage progressed, before they realized what was happening, she lost coordination and motor skills.

By the time she died, she could not blink. Her eyes had to be sewn shut. She could not hear. We had to sign into her hand a la Helen Keller. Soon she could not cough up the sputum that was accumulating in her lungs, from the pneumonia that she had gotten from her weakened immune system. She drowned to death, her lungs filling with fluid that she couldn't expel - a withered, bald skeleton, in the hospital bed in our den.

So fuck the argument that marijuana has any impact on the brain of a developing child. We're already destroying the brains of children with traditional cancer treatments.