What About The Children?

“What about the children?,” is one of the persistent refrains we hear from the cannabis prohibitionists, so let’s examine some factual information regarding cannabis and the children. In order to understand the potential impact of cannabis use on children, or anyone else, it’s necessary to first examine the endocannabinoid (marijuana from within) system and how it impacts all of us [1].

All of the biological effects produced by cannabis consumption, in anyone regardless of age, are the result of how phytocannabinoids impact on the endocannabinoid system that is in every human, and in fact, in all vertebrates. To begin, we must appreciate the fact that the endocannabinoid system is ahomeostatic (biochemical balance) regulator of all of our biological systems (cardiovascular, digestive, endocrine, immunological, neurological, muscular, skeletal, skin, reproductive), and through these systems helps regulate appetite, body temperature, fear [2] paranoia, and even happiness [3].

So let’s start in the beginning and examine the role of the endocannabinoid system in conception. Endocannabinoid’s are necessary for both male and female reproductive health [4]. Homeostasis means balance, therefore optimal reproductive health depends on having the correct amount of endocannabinoid activity for sperm maturation, fertilization, movement of the fertilized egg through the oviducts, implantation of the fertilized egg into the uterine wall, and subsequent embryological development of the fetus. If reproductive cannabinoid activity is too high, reproduction will be impaired. Likewise, if reproductive cannabinoid activity is too low, reproductive capacity will be impaired. 

For example, the endocannabinoid level found in the uterus varies with themenstrual cycle [5]. During the pre-ovulatory phase of the cycle, the uterus produces large amounts of the endocannabinoid known as anandamide. If these levels do not drop, implantation will not occur. In contrast, if the levels are too low, the fertilized egg will have a decreased probability of successfully passing through the oviduct resulting in a dangerous tubal pregnancy [6]. As pregnancy proceeds, typically morning sickness sets in. For many, this is exceedingly uncomfortable, however, for some it can create a potentially lethal condition for both the mother and fetus. Small doses of extra cannabinoid activity, as provided by the plant, can be life saving under these circumstances.

Because of the critical role that endocannabinoids play in neurological development [7], and since there are too many unknowns associated with fetal development [8], at this point in time, cannabis should be avoided during pregnancy unless absolutely necessary. There is an element of irony to this cautionary note. Psychoactive cannabinoids are found in mother’s milk [9]. Should mothers be arrested for breast-feeding an infant, or perhaps she should be arrested for having paraphernalia.

Since we’re dealing with the impact of cannabis on children, we should alsoconsider it’s impact on mothers. A content mother is more likely to be an understanding parent when compared with a depressed one. The first pharmacopoeia written over 3000 years ago in ancient China recommended cannabis use for what was then known as “women’s sickness”. We now know that a woman’s emotional status can very significantly with her hormonal status. PMS, menopause, and post partum blues are all associated with low estrogen levels. Recently, the antidepressant activity of estrogen has been shown to act through endocannabinoid pathways [10], hence verifying what has already been known for thousands of years.

The impact of maternal cannabis consumption on children has be studied indepth by Dr Dreher (Dean of Rush University College of Nursing in Chicago)

The neonates of heavy-marijuana-using mothers had better scores on autonomic stability, quality of alertness, irritability, and self- regulation and were judged to be more rewarding for caregivers. [11]

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Because there are also so many of unknowns associated with childhood development, cannabis use should be avoided through out normal child development. Herein lies the caveat, what if development is not normal? For example, what if a child has cancer? We live in a strange society where it has become unacceptable to give a child, or an adult for that matter, a natural herbal medicine that uniquely taps into our endocannabinoid system, and in doing so promotes health. Yet, it’s okay to give a person man-made chemicals, very frequently with ill-defined and negative health consequences.

For me there is a simple modus operandi for when to use cannabis products. If aperson suffers from a condition that appears to be an a endocannabinoid deficiency, then the simple natural solution is to supplement the person’s diet in such a manner as to promote additional cannabinoid activity, a diet high in the endocannabinoid precursors essential fatty acids (particularly omega-3), supplemented with the spectrum of cannabinoids found plant-based, cannabis products. Because of the very favorable safety profile for cannabis there’s no reason that dosages should be standardized. Cannabis nutritional supplementation should be determined by an individual’s need to restore biochemical balance, independent of their age.

Any time a person consumes anything that is detrimental to their health, there is a problem that ideally should be corrected. While I think most people would agree with the last statement, there are a number of people who have made up their minds that any cannabis use is intrinsically bad and harmful to an adolescent consuming it. I strongly disagree with this way of thinking. I started consuming cannabis when I started college at the age of 16. I found that cannabis opened my mind up in a positive manner. What I learned with the aid of cannabis was to be personally honest with myself, and to become a better student as a result. Over the next years I went from a terrible student to an excellent one, all in parallel with my increasing cannabis consumption. On the one hand, a young person without direction and motivation might be self destructive with excess cannabis consumption, whereas, another person might find direction and motivation through cannabis use promoting honest self reflection.

Some studies have shown that early cannabis users tend to be risk takers, a trait that is often portrayed in a negative light [12]. However, risk takers actually promote change. Risk is the willingness to step into the unknown. Isn’t this yet another example of a behavior pattern promoted by cannabis use, open mindedness (if something cannot be forgotten, it cannot be replaced by something potentially more accurate and truthful).

A human study [13] demonstrated a genetic basis for liking or disliking the effectsof marijuana. It seems logical that those who do not like the effects of cannabis are intrinsically more likely to not use it and to not want their kids to use it, and visa versa. A genetic determination that regulates cannabis use can certainly beat the heart of prohibition. A natural question to ask is: are people with above average levels of endocannabinoid activity in specific areas of the brain, thepeople who have a greater probability of trying and liking cannabis?

If a young person is happy and functionally integrated into a positive lifestyle, appropriate cannabis use (that which helps rather than harms) can serve as arelaxing reward for a job well-done. In contrast, an unhappy, poorly integratedindividual might take refuge in cannabis use. In this situation cannabis serves asan antidepressant helping to buffer the negative impact of a non-contributing or damaging environment. The real problem is the lack of a nurturing exchange withthe environment. In a more progressive social environment that provided constructive support, cannabis could potentially facilitate the transition to a new healthier state of mind.

Just as is true for adults, there are numerous disease states in children that can benefit from increasing cannabinoid activity. Probably the most tragic example isseen with cancer. Over the past decade hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific studies show that both phyto and synthetic cannabinoids have dramatic anticancer properties including the inhibition of metastasis. While the earliest studies show the benefit of THC for treating nausea and vomiting in children [14], more recent studies have demonstrated that THC kills rhabsomyosarcoma cellsin vitro. This form of cancer is the most prevalent soft tissue cancer in children. [15]

The cannabis and cancer is an evolving story for all age groups. There are hundreds of peer-reviewed studies that demonstrate in tissue culture and in animals that cannabinoids kill cancer cells [16]. There is growing anecdotal evidence where cancer patients are recovering after cannabis use (The Phoenix Tears Foundation has recently been established in an effort to help cancer patients with medical marijuana treatments and to validate the results) If the anecdotes are verified, parents will have to decide on conventional approaches for cancer treatments versus this ancient herbal remedy.

Sadly, there are too many illnesses that can affect children. Cannabis can relieve the suffering in many circumstances. Parents must be open-minded and do what’s best for their children. A horrific condition that typically affects children is known as Romberg syndrome. Fortunately it’s relatively rare. It appears to be aninflammatory immune driven disease or half of a person stays typically becomes severely disfigured, a condition often accompanied by migraine headaches and seizures. Cannabis has the capacity to relieve all of these symptoms, again, a few anecdotal reports a support that in fact they do. What a horrible choice for a parent to have to make, have their child experiment with marijuana or have them endure the repercussions of their illness.

America is reentering the world of marijuana-based medicine. From what we are seeing in States that have legalized medical marijuana, the results will be profound. Medicine is being removed from the hands of doctors and big Pharma, and the results thus far have been amazing. Hopefully, it will not be too long before the needless suffering of children can be reduced.

What About The Children?
Robert Melamede, Ph.D.
Associate Professor Biology Dept, UCCS
CEO Cannabis Science Inc (CBIS)
Pheonix Tears Foundation


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