Posted: Feb 21, 2011 7:12 PM by Allyson Weller (Missoula)
Updated: Feb 21, 2011 9:26 PM
There are more than 28,000 medical marijuana card holders in Montana, and 51 of them are under the age of 18.
Tayln Lang, director of the Missoula chapter of the Montana Medical Growers Association, said, "When I see the number 51 and we're in a state of a million people, that's a fraction of a percentage, and even with the 28,000 people that are on the program, it's still a fraction, not even 1 percent, so the number is really really small. That's one of the things that I think is one of the biggest misperceptions is that there's a ton of kids that are out there that have cards that are in high school and junior high and that are buying this medical cannabis and giving it to their friends and that's just simply not true."
The Medical Marijuana Act says in order for children to get a card, they have to follow specific guidelines. It says they "shall issue a registry identification card to a minor if the custodial parent or legal guardian for the minor signs and submits a written statement that the minor's physician has explained the potential risks and benefits of the medical use of marijuana; the custodial parent or legal consents to the medical use of marijuana by the minor; agrees to serve as the minor's caregiver; and agrees to control the acquisition of marijuana and the dosage and frequency of the medical use of marijuana by the minor."
One of the state's youngest medical cannabis card holders is Cash Hyde, a 2-and a half year old boy who battled a brain tumor and won.
Cash's dad Michael Hyde says the drug helped Cash with his battle.
"I believe that you know Cashy's with us for a lot of reasons, one of them I would have to say is the power of prayer, one he's a walking miracle and the other one is he is a patient of medical cannabis, which has I think greatly benefited his battle," said Hyde.
Cash's parents were there every step through his battle and watched as drugs prescribed by his doctors made him hallucinate and stop his heart. Cash's dad says medical cannabis helped rebuild his organs that were damaged from the chemo, helped with his appetite, and helped him sleep.
"I watched Cashy not be able to eat for over 40 days, live off nothing but fluid intravenously to the point where he couldn't lift his head up off his pillow. I realized along the way in this journey that there is a quality of life that a lot of people do not have, and it's because of the drugs that they're given," said Hyde.
With medical cannabis so new to many, some are worried of the affect it may have on young developing brains.
Brandee Tyree, the Missoula Underage Substance Abuse Prevention Coordinator, spends her days trying to keep kids away from marijuana.
"The THC will interfere with concentration, learning, problem solving, short term memory, all the things that kids need especially when they're in school and trying to learn. When you have a child that's high at school basically they're not learning so everything they've learned at school is then forgotten because they were high," said Tyree.
She continued, "Our coalition is designed to keep kids from using substances illegal or otherwise, alcohol obviously is illegal for kids but not for adults, we still don't want kids using it. Marijuana we take the same stance, it's a substance that's hurtful for the brain during development, we believe it's harmful for kids and in our opinion no we don't think kids should be using marijuana."
Lang asks people to look into the issue before making a decision.
"I would tell people before they make a decision on this to really do their research and check the facts out," said Lang.
"If you or someone you know has battled cancer I don't have to tell you how devastating it is to watch chemo and cancer consume your loved one and when you can actually watch something that you're doing for them actually benefit them in a way that nobody else can do, you feel empowered you feel like you can make a difference," said Hyde.
Another important fact caregivers emphasize is that children card holders are usually ingesting the drug, not smoking it.
They can eat it in baked goods like cookies, cakes, or brownies, or they can take a pill or a liquid form of the medicine.