SPRINGFIELD - While Illinois lawmakers may be open to children with epilepsy being treated with medical marijuana, an amendment State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Chicago) added onto the legislation at the last minute could open the way for children to use medical marijuana for a myriad of reasons.
The legislation faces final consensus in Illinois Senate before going to the Governor.
Rep. Lang emphasizes that his amendment requires the parental consent for children under 18 to use medical marijuana and the ban on minors smoking pot for medical reasons.
Lang's amendment also opens the way for the Department of Public Health to adopt rules to allow minors to use cannabis for reasons other than epilepsy - leaving the legislature out of the process of making condition additions. Lang's House Amendment 2 says:
The Department of Public Health may adopt rules to allow other individuals under 18 years of age to become registered qualifying patients under this Act with the consent of a parent or legal guardian. Registered qualifying patients under 18 years of age shall be prohibited from consuming forms of cannabis other than medical cannabis infused products and purchasing any usable cannabis.
That change caused State Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) to vote against HB 2636, she said.
"I'm okay with using medical marijuana for children with epilepsy, they've found good results," Ives told Illinois Review. "But when they opened it up for the Department to decide what conditions qualified for kids to use medical marijuana, I couldn't vote for it."
Ives, and 17 others voted against the measure, while 98 of their House colleagues supported the effort. After passing the House, Senator Iris Martinez (D-Chicago) recommended consensus in the Senate, and the bill awaits a vote before Friday's expected adjournment.
Experts say that while anecdotal stories may show medical cannabis helps children with epileptic seizures, scientific studies simply haven't shown the use to be consistently beneficial. Studies have shown varying degrees of effectiveness, and the safety issue is one that must also be considered.
Anecdotal reports "can give a potential signal of efficacy and safety, but doctors, patients and parents are all biased," says Dr. Maria Roberta Cilio, director of pediatric epilepsy research at the University of California, San Francisco. "Rigorous investigation of the safety and efficacy of medical marijuana or individual components such as CBD are necessary for patients with epilepsy before any conclusion is made."
The potency of the THC and CBD are difficult to regulate, she said. In Colorado, where medical marijuana is legal, there has been an uptick in the number of children admitted into hospitals who've been accidentally overdosed with edible marijuana.
Colorado is now considering a law, House Bill 1366, which requires state regulators to come up with rules that make edible-marijuana products identifiable even when they are out of their packaging. Colorado lawmakers suggested the products might all contain a unique stamp or be made in a particular shape or color.
The Denver Post reports:
The number of children coming into Colorado's largest pediatric emergency department after accidentally eating marijuana is on pace to more than double last year's total.
Michael DiStefano, the medical director of the Children's Hospital Colorado emergency department, said nine kids so far this year have been brought into the hospital for accidental marijuana ingestion. Of those, seven were admitted to the hospital's intensive-care unit — most commonly for what DiStefano said was either extreme sedation or agitation. One of those kids had breathing problems that required a respirator, DiStefano said.
Most of the children admitted are between 3 and 7 years old, DiStefano said.
Back in Illinois, a bill that started out legalizing edible cannabis for children has expanded, and will take a vote in the Illinois Senate to pass to the governor.
Other conditions Lang's amendment allows the Illinois Department of Public Health to consider addding to the list of legal medical marijuana use are for children fighting cancer, dealing with severe OCD and ADD, psychiatric disorders and autism.
The vote in the Illinois House on May 21, 2014: