Illinois Medical Marijuana Program Introduces the Medicine to Children — Will it Work?

A newly introduced law that expands Illinois’ medicinal marijuana program contains provisions for a whole new group of potential patients — children.

According to a January 2 Northwest Herald article, the law’s expansion, which went into effect on January 1, could provide a much-needed respite for Illinois children who suffer from epilepsy.

At the same time, the expansion stands to give a legal market to a hybrid strain of medicinal marijuana called Charlotte’s Web, which is heavy in the cannabinoid CBD and contains very little THC, the ingredient in marijuana that causes users to get high.

This CBD-rich strain has generated enough hype that two major U.S. drug companies are now studying its effects. However, conclusive results from these studies could take years. For now, evidence supporting Charlotte’s Web’s effects on childhood epilepsy are largely anecdotal, and far from consistent.

Many parents who have administered it to their children say medical marijuana has lessened the frequency and severity of their children’s epileptic seizures — and is both more effective and less dangerous than traditional prescription drugs used to treat childhood epilepsy. However, medical professionals largely believe that medicinal marijuana can have a potentially harmful impact on brain development when used by people younger than 18 years, the Northwest Herald reports.

Previously, Colorado had been the only U.S. state to include provisions for child patients in its medicinal marijuana legislation. For a child to legally use medical marijuana in Illinois, he or she will need to obtain recommendations from two doctors — adult patients only need one doctor’s recommendation.

But because no legal medical marijuana has been grown within the state of Illinois, child patients won’t be able to get access to this medicine just yet. Hopeful growers are still waiting on the state’s approval to begin construction on secure growing facilities, according to the Northwest Herald reports. Patients in Illinois may be waiting until as late as this summer to finally get a respite from their health conditions.

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