A number of concerned parents attended the Cannabis For Kids seminar in Richmond, Sept. 13, looking for help for their children that doctors haven’t been able to provide.
Kim Turkington’s five-year-old daughter Ella was on pharmaceutical drugs and depressed. Heavily medicated due to her seizures, she would sleep most of day, telling her mother that she felt sad.
“Those were the only words that came out of her mouth,” said Turkington, who lives in Surrey with her husband and two children. “She was a depressed four year old and it was terrible.”
Ella, who has epilepsy and autism, had failed to respond to a cocktail of drugs doctors prescribed. Finally, after dedicated research, her parents decided to try cannabis oil. Also known as CBD oil for its high content of cannabidiol and low amounts of THC (the psychoactive component that causes the “high” people feel with cannabis), the oil is believed to reduce seizures.
Sherri Brown understands Turkington’s story. Brown is the mother of a child with autism and is the founder of Project Bearings, an advocacy group that helps parents of children with autism and other developmental disabilities.
Brown said the Cannabis for Kids seminar was the first her group has organized and came as a response to parents that were becoming increasingly desperate to help their children.
“It’s a scary thing as parent,” said Brown. “We don’t have that clinical information, without that you’re on your own.”
Brown focused on the science behind the products, their history and how parents can access, and administer, cannabis for their children.
“The government should be doing a much better job pushing forward the science and research around this,” said Brown. “There’s a lot of solid science already that we know about the potential and the convulsant effects of CBD as well as anxiety and psychotic, anti-spasmodic effects of CBD and medical marijuana products.”
BC’s chief medical officer Dr. Perry Kendall said more research is needed because the information available about cannabis and treating children is anecdotal and comes from case studies.
Brown said Kendall is correct about the lack of research on treating children.
“Globally what we know in relation to children is derived from animal studies,” said Brown. “The most recent study was a self-report [survey] from parents in 2013, that showed 84 per cent of children had seizure reduction in the journal of Epilepsy & Behavior.”
And while there are currently phase-one clinical trials underway in Boston and New York, Brown said there are none in Canada and the information on children is lacking.
The seminar also spent time discussing the law surrounding access to medicinal cannabis in Canada, a system Brown called, “pathetic.”
“Through Canada’s licensed producers you’re only able to get dried product. So the options are to either produce the oil yourself or to get it illegally,” said Brown.
When parents are forced to choose between helping their children and breaking the law, many will will chose the latter.
Working with a neurologist at BC Children’s Hospital, Turkington began medicating her daughter with the oil in May while gradually cutting back on the pharmaceuticals.
“Since Ella’s been on the CBD oil she’s happy. Before she was zombielike and now we find her personality is just so awake,” said Turkington, who spoke at the seminar.
Brown said she has plans for another Cannabis for Kids seminar, this time in Victoria.
“I think information is power,” said Brown. “We’re a small group of people just trying to get some empowerment and control over our lives and to understand our options better.”