While it has been embedded in our history books, in recent years the use of marijuana as medicine has taken the world by storm. Offering multiple health benefits, more and more people are turning to medical marijuana in hopes of finding the relief they have desperately been searching for.
In 2016, Floridians legalized the use of marijuana as medicine for those who are suffering from an approved qualifying condition. Now, at the end of 2020, there are over 454,078 active patients in the Medical Marijuana Use Registry. So what is MMJ and is MMJ Safe for Children?
What is MMJ?
The marijuana plant, also known as cannabis, contains more than 100 neuroactive chemicals that work with two types of cannabinoid receptors, type 1 (CB1) located in the brain and type 2 (CB2) located in the brain and peripheral immune system.
Cannabis can contain two different types of molecules that interact with cannabinoid receptors: agonists and antagonists. An agonist is a drug that attaches to the same receptor as a natural chemical and causes the same effect. A dopamine agonist is a drug that is not dopamine, but attaches to the dopamine receptor. An antagonist is different as it attaches to the receptor, but blocks the action of the natural chemical.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a primary component of marijuana. Cannabidiol (CBD) is the other primary component. THC has a long latency of onset and cannot be easily measured for a therapeutic or medicinal dose. Medical marijuana studies primarily provide participants with THC and/or cannabidiol as a capsule, nasal spray or liquid formulation.
Is MMJ Safe for Children?
This is a question that is debated by many different sides. While there has not been much research done to show the long term effects medical marijuana has on anyone, there is much concern about how it will affect the development of adolescents. Learn about MMJ Safe for Children and the Qualifying Conditions.
THC is the chemical that causes people to experience a psychoactive “high” and euphoria. In children and young adults ages 12 to 23, major developmental changes in the brain make marijuana use during this time risky. Our body already makes a natural cannabinoid, which helps build connections in the brain and adding additional THC into the system can cause dysfunction, as nerve connections form erratically and imperfectly, leading to a decrease in IQ that may not improve, affected memory, and a higher risk of lifelong substance use.
Particularly for younger adolescents, allowing the brain to mature under the influence of extra external THC can lead to the brain being hardwired to function under that influence, making it difficult to stop using.
Additional side effects include:
- Difficulty thinking and problem solving.
- Problems with memory and learning.
- Impaired coordination.
- Difficulty maintaining attention.
- Decline in school performance.
- Increased risk of mental health issues.
- Impaired driving.
- Potential for addiction
On the other hand, CBD is a great option for pediatric patients because it offers many health benefits without the additional risks. There is also no psychoactivity produced by CBD which allows children to go about their daily routine with no recognizable difference. Anxiety, epilepsy, sleep disorder, ADHD, Cancer, and many other conditions have all shown to be helped by CBD products.
Just keep in mind that a lot of CBD available over the counter is not the same. Since the FDA does not regulate CBD in a way that prevents mislabeling, it is easy to purchase a product that will not show results. Always be sure to ask for a Certificate of Analysis for each product you purchase in order to show that you are receiving a legitimate and tested product.
Most Common Conditions for Pediatric MMJ Use
The two most common medical conditions among children that may involve the use of medicinal marijuana are:
- Epilepsy: The cannabinoid CBD is likely to benefit children with refractory epilepsy. CBD does not cause the “high,” which is produced by THC. There is some evidence, which suggests that children with severe and chronic epileptic seizures may benefit from a controlled dosage of CBD. Some researchers noted a 50% decline in seizure rate among children who were administered a dose of cannabis-derived CBD for the treatment of epilepsy (3). There are also a few CBD-based liquid medicines that may provide relief from epileptic seizures.
- Autism: A more recent research in CBD use for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) found it to be a “well-tolerated, safe, and effective option to relieve symptoms associated with ASD (4). It decreases irritability and anxiety. The study noted that 30% of pediatric patients showed significant improvement, while 50% displayed moderate improvement after six months of treatment. However, 25% of them had side effects, with the most common one being restlessness.
Qualifying Conditions for Pediatric Patients in Florida
For a pediatric patient to qualify for their medical marijuana card, they must:
- Be a permanent or seasonal Florida resident
- Be diagnosed with a qualifying medical condition by a qualified physician
- Be entered into the Medical Marijuana Use Registry
- Obtain a Medical Marijuana Use Registry Identification Card
- For children under the age of 18, a second physician must concur with this decision. The second physician does not have to be a pediatrician, nor do they have to be certified to recommend MMJ.
The state approved qualifying medical conditions are:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Crohn’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to the others listed.
- A terminal condition diagnosed by a physician other than the qualified physician issuing the physician certification.
- Chronic nonmalignant pain caused by a qualifying medical condition or that originates from a qualifying medical condition and persists beyond the usual course of that qualifying medical condition.
In addition to those listed above, those wanting to get a pediatric medical marijuana card have a few more requirements:
- A qualified physician must determine that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for all patients. If the patient is younger than 18 years of age, a second physician must concur with this determination, and such concurrence must be documented in the patient’s medical record.
- A qualified physician may not issue a physician certification for marijuana in a form for smoking to a patient under 18 years of age unless the patient is diagnosed with a terminal condition, the qualified physician determines that smoking is the most effective route of administration for the patient, and a second physician who is a board-certified pediatrician concurs with such determination.
- The certifying physician must obtain the written informed consent of the patient’s parent or legal guardian before issuing a physician certification to the patient for marijuana in a form for smoking.
- If a qualified patient is younger than 18 years of age, only a caregiver may purchase or administer marijuana for medical use by the qualified patient. The qualified patient may not purchase marijuana.
Booking a Pediatric Appointment
If your child meets the requirements above (MMJ Safe for Children Section) they can book an appointment with a state qualified medical marijuana physician. For a hassle-free process, one of our patient care coordinators can help guide you through the process over the phone. Once seen, there are a few steps to take before you can legally purchase medical marijuana products for your child.
- Submitting your application with ID & Proof of Residency: Once seen, you will receive an email from the State with login credentials for the Medical Marijuana Use Registry. It is highly recommended that you complete your application online, but you may also send your application by mail to the Office of Medical Marijuana Use, PO Box 31313, Tampa, FL, 33631-3313. Caregivers must submit a Caregiver Application in addition to the Patient Application. In order to submit a completed application, you must provide a photo ID. If you have a Florida Driver’s License or Identification Card and are applying online, the system will automatically upload it for you. Otherwise, you must submit a full-face, 2×2 passport-style photo no older than 90 days. If the system automatically uploaded your Driver’s License or Photo ID, this will serve as proof of residency. If you are a seasonal resident and/ or a minor, proof of residency must be submitted with your application (for minors, caregiver and minor proof of residency must be submitted separately).
- Submitting payment: After completing the application submit $75 online or by check or money order made out to the Florida Department of Health. If you are applying as a caregiver, you must submit an additional $75 caregiver card payment. Online applications take on average ten days to process, and payments take approximately five days.
- Receiving your MMJ Card: Once you have been approved by a physician and have received your ID Card, you can now legally purchase medical marijuana products from a state-approved Medical Marijuana Treatment Center. These are also called dispensaries, and are located throughout the state so patients have easy access to products.
If you or a loved one is suffering on a daily basis from a debilitating condition and are ready to take the next step to improving one’s quality of life naturally, take this pre-eligibility survey to see if Florida Medical Marijuana is right for you. DocMJ offers locations throughout the state, with flexible appointment availability to fit everyone’s unique needs. MMJ Safe for Children