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Becoming a pediatric pot parent

| Sunday, June 4, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
Marijuana plants on display at a medical marijuana provider in downtown Los Angeles. (AP Photo)
Marijuana plants on display at a medical marijuana provider in downtown Los Angeles. (AP Photo)

Let's talk about marijuana — specifically, about how and why I came to be one of the countless parents across America (and around the world) who have let their chronically ill children try it.

A groundbreaking new study published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine found that among children with Dravet syndrome taking cannabidiol, the decrease in the frequency of convulsive seizures was 23 percentage points greater than the decrease in seizures among children taking a placebo.

Cannabidiol is one of hundreds of chemical components found in cannabis plants. Unlike THC, CBD is nonhallucinogenic and nonaddictive. It doesn't make you high, and it can be extracted as an oil. Until now, evidence of marijuana's benefits for pediatric epilepsy patients has been largely anecdotal. The new CBD study is hugely significant because it uses the scientific gold standard of a randomized controlled trial.

My own interest in pediatric medicinal marijuana is more than academic. When my daughter, Veronica, fell ill in late spring 2015 — unable to breathe normally, bedridden with chronic pain and fatigue — she saw dozens of specialists, including a leading Denver neurologist who treated intractable cases. The various drugs prescribed to my daughter weren't working and had awful side effects.

To our surprise, the mainstream neurologist suggested CBD. This doctor had other young patients who used CBD oil with positive results. But she could not directly prescribe it because of her hospital affiliation. So we did our own independent research — and entered a whole new world. Two physicians signed off on our daughter's application for a medical marijuana card. And we became pediatric pot parents.

For Veronica, CBD provided more relief than all the other mainstream pharmaceutical interventions she had endured, and without the scary side effects. But ultimately, it was a temporary remedy. We were glad for the chance to try CBD, and glad that so many other families are having success with it.

Our experience showed us the importance of increasing therapeutic choices in the marketplace for all families — and trusting doctors and patients to figure out what works best.

It flies in the face of current science to classify CBD oil as a Schedule I drug, as the feds did at the end of 2016. Nor does it make sense to draw the line at CBD if some patients and doctors believe THC's therapeutic benefits outweigh potential harm.

As a lifelong social conservative, I used to be a table-pounding crusader for the government's war on drugs. When I worked in Seattle in the 1990s, I initially opposed efforts to legalize medical marijuana. I also opposed efforts to loosen restrictions on conducting studies on potential therapeutic effects. But the war on drugs has been a ghastly quagmire that has done far more harm than good.

The Trump administration has sent mixed signals on a medical marijuana crackdown. So let me be clear as a liberty-loving, conservative mom: Keep your hands off. Let the scientists lead. Limited government is the best medicine.

Michelle Malkin is host of “Michelle Malkin Investigates” on CRTV.com.

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