As Canada’s medical marijuana program continues to evolve, conducting research and trials on a particular strain of the drug for treatment of juvenile epilepsy must be considered, says Toronto criminal lawyer Aaron Harnett.
“While it may seem a little absurd to administer a marijuana product to someone so young, when you consider that the cannabinoid which is being considered is non-psychoactive, it starts to become more sensible,” says Harnett.
A recent Toronto Star report told the story of a nine-month-old epileptic child who may greatly benefit from a strain of marijuana that is high in the active substance Cannabidiol (CBD) but very low in THC, the chemical that gets you high.
A little girl in Colorado, the Star reports, was able to reduce her seizures drastically by taking a small dose of the drug three times daily.
But while studies on the use of high-CBD marijuana for juvenile epilepsy are being done in the U.S., the article says, in Canada, no research is taking place.
And while Health Canada allows anyone suffering from epileptic seizures to apply for a licence to possess marijuana for medical purposes, the marijuana contains far too little CBD to treat an infant, the Star reports.
Harnett says the story is reminiscent of Terry Parker, an epileptic man who, in 2000, took his battle to legally smoke marijuana to the Ontario Court of Appeal, which ruled that the law prohibiting marijuana possession was unconstitutional because it did not take users of medicinal marijuana into account.
“Dr. Harold Kalant, a renowned pharmacological expert called by the Crown, opined that the likely source of the ameliorative effects of marijuana for Mr. Parker was this elusive mysterious substance CBD,” says Harnett.
“So in a way, things are coming full circle more than a decade later. It's a shame that more robust and definitive research has not been able to be conducted over the last 15 years since that decision, because of the unreasonable restriction on the use and study of medical marijuana.”
Harnett says he has “no difficulty” believing that CBD may have the helpful effects the infant girl’s parents are hoping for.
“Given the life-threatening nature of the ailment, it stands to reason that it's worth the risk,” he says.
“The medical marijuana regime in Canada is in a state of flux right now. It is possible to imagine that under the new set of regulations, it will be easier to study the effects of particular strains of marijuana and particular cannabinoids found in marijuana, but that regime doesn't come into effect until next year.”
Harnett says the risks of not testing high-CBD marijuana for juvenile epilepsy in Canada are far greater than moving ahead with trials.
“The cannabinoid CBD at its worst would simply be non-effective. There is no known lethal dosage, or LD50 as it is known, of CBD,” says Harnett. “That is not true for drugs that we commonly take every day, such as Aspirin and virtually any other over-the-counter medication. Even water has a lethal dosage.”