Entries in Medical Marijuana (8)


Mom Enrolls 7-Year-Old in Medical Marijuana Program

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- When 7-year-old Mykayla Comstock was diagnosed with leukemia in July, it was less than three days before her mother filed Oregon medical marijuana paperwork so the child could take lime-flavored capsules filled with cannabis oil.

The decision to give Mykayla the capsules came naturally to Erin Purchase, Mykayla's mother, who believes marijuana has healing power.  But doctors aren't so sure it's a good idea.

"The first doctor was not for it at all," Purchase told ABC News. "Basically she blew up at us and told us to transfer to another facility."

Their new doctor knows that Mykayla takes about a gram of cannabis oil a day -- half in the morning and half at night -- but doesn't discuss it with them.

"This is our daughter," Purchase, 25, said. "If they don't agree with our personal choices, we'd rather they not say anything at all."

It's legal for a minor to enroll in the Oregon medical marijuana program as long as the child's parent or legal guardian consents and takes responsibility as a caregiver.

And Mykayla is not alone.

There are currently four other patients enrolled in the Oregon medical marijuana program between the ages of 4 and 9, six between the ages of 10 and 14, and 41 between the ages of 15 and 17, according to the Oregon Public Health Division. Severe pain, nausea, muscle spasms and seizures are among the top conditions cited for medical marijuana use.

Mykayla first started to feel sick in May, when she developed a rash, cough and night sweats. By mid-July, doctors found a mass in her chest and diagnosed her with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia a few days later. The family relocated from Pendleton, Ore. to Portland to be near Randall Children's Hospital for treatment, which included chemotherapy.

At first, Mykayla wasn't responding well to her treatment, and doctors said she might need a bone marrow transplant. Then she started taking the cannabis oil pills. By early August, Mykayla was in remission and the transplant was no longer necessary.

"I don't think it's just a coincidence," Purchase said. "I credit it with helping -- at least helping -- her ridding the cancer from her body."

Purchase said she, too, uses medical marijuana. She said it has helped with her kidney and liver disease since 2010, adding, "I feel that it saved my life."

However, Dr. Donna Seger, the executive director of the Tennessee Poison Center and a professor at Vanderbilt University, said cannabis has no effect on liver or kidney function, and is not a medicine for cancer.

"If it does anything, it decreases immunity," she said. "It doesn't fight cancer."

Seger said she has several concerns about a 7-year-old taking pills filled with cannabis oil because there is little research on its long-term effects on children. Cannabis could have potentially negative effects on cognitive development in children, and little is known about regimens lasting months or years.

Purchase said she wasn’t nervous at all about prescribing pot to her daughter, but was unsure what dosage to administer. She started Mykayla with .07-grams at a time.

"It took a while to get her adjusted to it," Purchase said. "She acted more funny when she first started taking it and after a while gained tolerance. Now, when she takes it, you can't even tell. She's very normal."

But Dr. Michel Dubois, who works in NYU Langone's Pain Management Center, is concerned about the addictive qualities of pot, as well as the 50 to 60 different chemicals contained in cannabis oil pills. He said the capsules shouldn’t be administered for more than a month or two.

Although Mykayla's doctors told Purchase she was in remission on Aug. 6 when her blood cell counts returned to normal, Mykayla will undergo two and a half or three more years of chemotherapy so that she can one day be officially cured, Purchase said. That could mean years of more medical marijuana.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Gov. Christie Greenlights New Jersey's First Medical Marijuana Dispensary

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MONTCLAIR, N.J.) -- The commissioner of New Jersey Department of Health announced this week that for the first time physicians can register qualified patients for the state's medical marijuana program.

It's a move that got support from Republican Gov. Chris Christie, whose face will hang in a place of honor on the wall of the first functioning dispensary in the Garden State.

"At one point we felt that the progression of the program installation was slow," according to Julio Valentin, COO of Greenleaf Compassion, the dispensary in Montclair. "But we understand that Gov. Christie and the state of New Jersey is doing the best they can to cross their T's and dot their I's to make this program as successful as possible."

Valentin, who intends to hang a framed photo of Gov. Christie on one of the walls of the dispensary, says that Christie has given them "the green light" to proceed with developing the program.

Valentin told ABC News he wants the dispensary to look like any other official government building. "I think it is respectful to hang a picture of the governor as well as other governmental officials in the store." Valentine continued, explaining that having a photo of the controversial Republican governor is not intended to be factious. "It is out of respect. We will have our certificates, an American flag and the N.J. state flag hanging inside too."

Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML, however, isn't as convinced that Christie's intentions in supporting the medical marijuana project are all good. According to him Christie "begrudgingly embraced" the legislation.

St. Pierre believes that Christie is not doing this because he is a supporter; he is doing to for "political pragmatism."

Though the governor seems supportive of medical marijuana, in June he vowed to veto a bill decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Advocates for decriminalization hope that one day Republicans will see their argument from a financial point of view.

"It'll be awesome the amount of money these places will generate," according to St. Pierre.

"The most infamous dispensary in California, Harborside Health Center pulls in $60,000-$70,000 per day in cash sales. That's over 30 million dollars a year in revenue," he said. "There is a lot of money to be generated in these dispensaries. Legislators are beginning to see that money and want to get a piece of it, which is very logical."

St. Pierre hopes that once establishments get going in New Jersey they will set a precedent for other East Coast states. "New Jersey's marijuana program is the antithesis of that in California, St." Pierre said. "Everywhere and every state looks to California and says that is not the model they want to replicate." That is why Christie has made a push for the strictest possible laws.

The newly installed patient registry system allows doctors to go online and electronically sign patients up to participate in the program, allowing them to explore alternative treatments of specified illnesses through means of medicinal marijuana. The qualifying conditions required to receive a med card include terminal illness, cancer, glaucoma, and Multiple Sclerosis.

Six dispensaries have been issued permits by the state but only one, Greenleaf Compassion Center of Montclair, is set to be up and running by the beginning of September.

Though five of the six permitted dispensaries do not yet have storefront locations, the medical marijuana program has made huge strides since New Jersey's Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act was signed into law by Gov. Jon Corzine more than two years ago. However, the law's implementation was delayed under the Christie administration as the state labored over regulatory details. Christie said that passing the decriminalization bill would be "contrary to the message we are sending" by establishing a structured medical marijuana program.

When asked how he felt about Valentin hanging a picture of the governor in New Jersey's first dispensary, St. Pierre responded, "In my opinion, these permits landed in the hands of political partisans. That man running that dispensary will one day be on the end of a political donation to Christie. Mark my words."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Chong Treats Prostate Cancer With Cannabis

Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic(NEW YORK) -- Actor-comedian Tommy Chong, one-half of the pot-loving pair “Cheech and Chong,” said he’s treating his “slow stage-one” prostate cancer with his favorite plant.

“I’ve got prostate cancer, and I’m treating it with hemp oil, with cannabis,” Chong, 74, told CNN Saturday. “So [legalizing marijuana] means a lot more to me than just being able to smoke a joint without being arrested.”

Chong told the news site that he was diagnosed with the illness about a month ago, but he first experienced symptoms of the cancer about eight years ago while in jail after selling drug paraphernalia.

He no longer smokes marijuana because of “health reasons,” he told CNN, and he consumes the hemp oil at night so he “won’t be woozy all day.”

Cannabis has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to relieve symptoms of nausea and vomiting, and to help increase appetite in people with cancer and AIDS, according to the American Cancer Society. The most potent ingredient of medical marijuana is THC. The product comes in the form of an inhaler, pills and oil and it can also be smoked.

There are no other drugs that work as well as cannabis for treating the nausea and anorexia associated with cancer and its treatments, Dr. Donna Seger, associate professor of clinical medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tenn., told ABC News in March.

It is unclear whether Chong has undergone chemotherapy or other treatments for the cancer, but treatment of stage 1 prostate cancer, which is only found in the prostate, is often approached by the “watchful waiting” technique, when doctors allow time to pass to see the progression of the disease before they suggest surgery or medical intervention.

At least one doctor believes Chong’s promoting his self-described treatment is a disservice to other men with the disease.

“As a comedian, this is a really funny skit,” said Dr. Leonard G. Gomella, chairman of the department of urology at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. “As a public figure who can get a forum, it is irresponsible. Had he been suffering from widely metastatic disease with bone pain and other devastations, perhaps there may be a role, but not for early disease.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Marijuana Vending Machine by Calif. Company

David McNew/Getty Images(ALISO VIEJO, Calif.) -- A California company hopes to make medical marijuana a little easier to obtain and to control.

Dispense Labs, a division of the Dispensary Group, unveiled Autospense Friday, an automated dispensary that distributes medical marijuana and looks like a vending machine.

All that is needed to tap an Autospense machine is a registration card and unique PIN number, said Joe DeRobbio, Dispense Labs’ founder and CEO.

After swiping the card, the patient is granted access to a caged, camera-monitored room. From there, a patient swipes his or her card again and is given a menu to choose medicinal variety and quantity, DeRobbio said. Payment can be made with cash, credit or debit card. Once payment is received, the door to the machine opens, much like an ATM machine, to allow patients to remove their medicinal marijuana.

During after hours, Autospense is open only to patients who have agreed to the fingerprint option -- they run their prints through a scanner and swipe a registration card, DeRobbio said.

Autospense offers a secure, “businesslike” way to distribute and obtain medical marijuana, said DeRobbio. With cameras, locks and sensors, the machines are difficult to break into.

“The facilities are secure,” DeRobbio said. “There are cameras outside and inside. There are alarm sensors around and in the machine. If there’s any type of forced entry, it sets off an alarm.”

And there are consequences for tampering with the system.

“If you’re going to go in and try to rob that machine and do something silly, your membership and access to the machine is revoked permanently,” said DeRobbio.

The machine records all transactions and inventory 24 hours a day and seven days a week while securely managing a patient’s information.

The idea for the machine came when DeRobbio noticed a lack of control regarding medical marijuana. Autospense, which is currently allowed  only in dispensaries in California and Colorado, is designed to mitigate problems surrounding medical marijuana distribution, including theft and the black market, DeRobbio said.

“It’s a difficult culture,” DeRobbio said. “This provides a solution. It’s manageable, it’s controllable, and it’s transparent. Taxation comes right from the machine and every dollar is accounted for.”

Although Dispense Labs supplies the machines, it is not involved in growing the product, DeRobbio said.

“We are not associated with the industry,” he said. “We do not provide the medicine that goes in the machine.”

Medicinal marijuana has been legal in California since Proposition 215 was passed in 1996.

DeRobbio believes the Autospense system is the perfect place for medical marijuana in society.

“Medical marijuana, we believe, is here to stay,” DeRobbio said. “Here’s a way that you can control that 800-pound gorilla.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Toddler Takes Cannabis Oil for Cancer Treatment

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(MISSOULA, Mont.) -- Marijuana was the best medicine for 3-year-old Cash Hyde of Missoula, Mont. At least that's what his parents, Mike and Kalli Hyde, believe.

The couple said they defied doctor's orders -- and Montana law -- to get their hands on the medicinal treatment their son needed after he was diagnosed with recurring brain tumors at 22 months old.

"I've had law enforcement threatening to kick my door down, but I would have done anything to keep Cashy alive," Mike Hyde, who said he has long been a proponent of the drug, told

Hyde said police sought out the Hydes after they publicly spoke about how Cash's health benefited from cannabis oil. Mike has not been arrested, although he said police have threatened to arrest him.

But Missoula Police Sgt. Travis Welsh said he was unfamiliar with the Hydes' case, and he assured that this is not a black and white situation.

"This is not a situation that we routinely run into," Welsh told "There are a lot of different variables to consider in this situation. I can't imagine we'd go out right away to arrest this dad for a drug offense. But there are other factors, including whether it's appropriate for somebody to act independently of doctor's orders and whether they are acting in the best interest of the child."

"Obviously, this man's intentions are for his child," Welsh said.

The Hydes and doctors decided to wean the toddler off a cocktail of drugs that included, methadone, ketamine and morphine. Their son went through 30 rounds of radiation without one nausea or pain medication besides medical marijuana, according to his father.

Mike Hyde said doctors were unaware he was giving his son marijuana.

Doctors told the Hydes that Cash only had a 30 percent chance of surviving five years, and, at best, radiation could stop the tumor from spreading. But the toddler, whose second tumor was diagnosed in October, has not seen any recurrence. His parents chalk that up to the cannabis oil they administered to him twice a day since the second tumor diagnosis.

Mike Hyde said he traveled throughout Montana and California to obtain the cannabis oil for Cash. To figure out the proper dose to give to his son, he researched the suggested numbers for adults, "then gave the proportional dose for Cash's weight."

"Before he ever received any oil, I'd give myself 10 times the amount I was going to give him to be sure of the effects," Hyde said. "I came to the conclusion that this drug was safer than any other drug for him."

"No one can read this story without being happy for the child and his family; however, one cannot assume the cannabis oil is responsible for the remission or even the relief of pain," said Dr. Donna Seger, associate professor of clinical medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. "He may be one of the fortunate few in which remission would have occurred no matter what treatment had been administered."

More than 14,000 Montana residents hold a license to use medical marijuana, according to the state's department of public health and human services. Under Montana law, a person under 18 can become a medical marijuana patient, but their parent or legal guardian must agree to act as the minor-patient's primary caregiver and control their use.

The drug has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to relieve symptoms of nausea and vomiting, and to help increase appetite in people with cancer and AIDS, according to the American Cancer Society. The most potent ingredient of medical marijuana is THC. The product comes in the form of an inhaler, pills and oil, which Cash was given, and it can also be smoked.

There are no other drugs that work as well as cannabis for treating the nausea and anorexia associated with cancer and its treatments, said Seger.

Even with the pain-reducing qualities of medical marijuana, Dr. Allison Dering-Anderson, clinical assistant professor in the college of pharmacy at the University of Nebraska, said most states' medical marijuana laws likely would not cover a child as young as Cash.

And while Dering-Anderson said she is happy that the boy is recovering, she does not condone breaking the law in this way.

"It's not acceptable to break the law," said Dering-Anderson. "I'm sorry for this child and for this family and for all they've gone through, but….our licenses depend upon upholding the law."

Dering-Anderson said she has deep concerns about children taking medication that is not specified by a doctor and without clear oversight of their care.

"This child wasn't involved in a controlled study," she continued. "It's a good thing that this product didn't harm him. Would this have been news if the parents had used cobra venom or poison sumac? I doubt it."

Nevertheless, his parents are happy he is alive and well, and chalk it up to the marijuana as a major reason why Cash is "playing with Play-Doh," and not confined in a hospital bed, without energy to do any of the things children normally do.

"Cancer is a terrible monster," said Mike Hyde. "I was going to do anything to help my child."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Montana Dad Gives Cancer-Stricken Toddler Medical Marijuana

David McNew/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Doctors said two-year-old Cash Hyde would likely die after they found a stage 4 brain tumor surrounding his optic nerve just a year ago this week.

And he nearly did.  After being subjected to seven different chemotherapy drugs, the little boy from Missoula, Montana suffered septic shock, a stroke and pulmonary hemorrhaging.

Cash was so sick he went 40 days without eating.  His organs were threatening to shut down.  His father, Mike Hyde, intervened, slipping cannabis oil into his son's feeding tube.

In Montana, medical marijuana is legal.  Hyde had used it himself to treat his attention deficit disorder.  When Cash was diagnosed in May 2010, Mike got him a marijuana card and purchased the drug from his own supplier.

Cash, now three, made a miraculous recovery at Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City, but his father's bold action -- taken behind doctors' backs -- has raised serious questions about a parent's role in medical treatment.

Hyde said he believes it was the marijuana oil that helped Cash eat again and that the drug -- illegal in most states, including Utah, can cure cancer.

"Not only was it helpful," Hyde, 27, told ABC News.  "It was a godsend."

Dr. Linda Granowetter, a professor of pediatrics at New York University and chief of the Division of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology, told ABC News that Hyde's intervention was "fascinating" but "somewhat bothersome."

Granowetter said she agrees that cannabis -- the chemical form, THC can be found in the prescription drug Marinol -- is effective in treating adult nausea that accompanies chemotherapy.  But there have been no clinical trials in children.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Children Sickened After Eating Medical Marijuana Cookies

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(VALLEJO, Calif.) -- Children in California and Illinois have become ill in the last several weeks after eating cookies and brownies made with marijuana.

In the most recent case, several elementary school students from Vallejo, California, got sick after eating marijuana-laced cookies given to one of them by a convenience store clerk.  The cookies were made by a Colorado company that says they are legal because they are sold for medical purposes.  The kids likely didn't know the cookies contained the drug; the students shared the cookies during lunch and reported feeling nauseated about half an hour later.

According to the school district, the children have been released from the hospital and are doing well.

"It's unclear if any of the children knew the cookies contained cannabis," police Sgt. Jeff Bassett said in a press release.  "The packages are not clearly marked."

Police are still trying to find the person who gave the cookies to the store clerk.

At least one state is now considering action against these marijuana edibles.  According to local media reports, Rep. Cindy Acree, a Republican state legislator from Colorado, has proposed a ban on the sale of any food or drink containing marijuana, even if it has clearance for medical use.  The bill is currently under debate.  Acree said she is considering amendments to the bill that would permit the sale of edibles, but impose strict labeling, packaging and marketing regulations.

Experts say that situations like these show that medical marijuana is an issue that's still evolving, and many facets of it pose challenges to lawmakers, the public and the marijuana business, including how to regulate it appropriately where it is legal.

People on both sides of the issue agree it's essential to make sure marijuana stays out of the hands of children, although many advocates of medical marijuana think if a child needs it for medical reasons, it should be available.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Capitalizing on Medical Marijuana: Pot Soft-Drinks

Photo Courtesy - KGO-TV San Francisco(SAN FRANCISCO) -- California and Colorado have more liberal medical marijuana laws than most states, and one entrepreneur wants to capitalize on those tolerant policies by marketing a line of marijuana soft drinks.

Clay Butler tells The Mercury News he's never smoked marijuana, but he thinks there's a market in marijuana dispensaries for a line of soft drinks that contain THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.

The resident of Soquel, Calif., has partnered with Diavolo Brands to produce five soft drink flavors: Canna Coke, a Dr. Pepper-like beverage called Doc Weed, lemon-lime Sour Diesel, Grape Ape, and the orange-flavored Orange Kush.

Butler hopes to launch the products in Colorado next month, and in California by springtime. 

The soft drinks will sell for between $10 and $15 per 12-ounce bottle.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio