Should A Mother Be Judged For Administering Medical Marijuana To Her 7-Year-Old? Maybe

One of Oregon’s youngest medical marijuana patients is a 7-year-old girl. Her mother administers medical marijuana daily to help combat the effects of chemotherapy. It is easy to jump to judgement in a case like this one, but if I had a child who had to deal with the effects of chemotherapy – I would try all options at my disposal, too.

The Oregonian reports that Mykayla Comstock is “one of the 2,201 cancer patients authorized by the state of Oregon to use medical marijuana. The Oregon Medical Marijuana Program serves 52 children who have a qualifying medical condition,parental consent and a doctor’s approval.”

I have no ethical problems with using marijuana to help a cancer patient deal with the effects of chemotherapy. I know the potential side effects of cannabis use in children are not great, but somehow they don’t look as bad when measuring them next to chemotherapy. Mykayla’s mother,  Erin Purchase, claims that the marijuana helps her daughter deal with the pain, nausea, depression and sleep deprivation that her treatments cause. ”She’s like she was before,” her mother said. “She’s a normal kid.”

Mykayla herself says that the marijuana treatment makes her feel better, but a little “funny.”    She told The Oregonian, ”It helps me eat and sleep. The chemotherapy makes you feel like you want to stay up all night long.”

With all of the drugs out there that we willingly give our children when they need them, maybe marijuana is a viable alternative – where legal. At least it’s derived naturally. I think if we removed the stigma of its being an “illegal drug,” we could appreciate the documented healing benefits. In Oregon, there is one loophole that doesn’t sit well in the whole treatment for children.

Oregon’s law, approved by voters 14 years ago, requires no monitoring of a child’s medical marijuana use by a pediatrician. The law instead invests authority in parents to decide the dosage, frequency and manner of a child’s marijuana consumption.

The state imposes no standards for quality, safety or potency in the production of marijuana.

Now this, I don’t understand. If marijuana is to be regarded as an appropriate medical option, shouldn’t its use be monitored by a pediatrician? And why no standards for quality, safety, or potency?

Another element of this story may not sit well. Purchase is a daily user of marijuana herself, and believes in its healing properties so much so that she used it during her pregnancy and throughout breastfeeding. I’m sure many would disagree with that approach. I really want to be open-minded about the treatment of her 7-year-old, but I have to admit this part of the story made me a little wary.

Regardless of how anyone feels about the treatment, Mykayla went into remission a month after starting chemotherapy. Cancer specialists say such a development is expected, but her mother credits the marijuana use. Frankly, I find it hard to sit in judgement of anyone who has to see their child go through this – no matter how conflicted I am about their methods.

(photo: Boltenkoff/


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  • Carmen Finnigan

    There is a lot of evidence that it is extremely safe and effective in managing chemotherapy induced nausea. They could do a lot better if it were legalized. They have to jump through to many hoops since it legal on the state but not the federal level. It is utterly ridiculous. It is an extremely safe drug unlike alcohol which is legal.

  • jessica

    No brainer for Mykayla’s mom in my opinion. But if it were my kid that would be a tough decision to make, unfortunately, because where I live it is still illegal. That sucks because it would absolutely kill me to watch my kid go through that and not do everything I possibly could to try to make the situation a bit less miserable, you know?

  • wmdkitty

    *shrug* I don’t see a problem here, kid’s an authorized patient.

  • C.J.

    My mother went through chemo for breast cancer, it was awful. As hard as it was to watch my mom go through it and wish there was something that would take the terribleness away I imagine it would be worse to have your child go through it. I can understand a parent doing anything possible to help their child through it. I absoulutley do not agree with using it while pregnant or breastfeeding though. The mother isn’t helping her cause any by throwing that in.

  • Pinquot

    I am a big supporter of both recreational and medicinal marijuana; that said, studies do suggest that using pot can have an ill impact on a child’s developing brain (no comparable ill effect has been found in users who start as adults.) But obviously in this case, the potential risk would have to be balanced with the immediate benefits to a seriously ill child (of course, chemotherapy can do long-term damage as well and most would not see it as ethically problematic in this case.) Ultimately I agree that this is between the mother, her child and their doctors — other people who have not been in this position should not judge or berate the mother here and neither should the government.

    • Marisa Miller

      Study, schmuddy. I’m sure most of them are sponsored by Pfizer. I’m the parent of a pot kid and he’s a goddamned genius and gymnastic wonder. He’s a little small for his age. Big deal. I think the studies unfairly survey women who engage in other risky behaviors while pregnant and don’t solely depend on data from women who only used mmj.

    • Pinquot

      The study was by Duke scientists.

      I wasn’t referring to fetal brain development — the study was of kids who smoked pot as teenagers (hopefully your genius wonderchild’s brain is still growing.) I do think it’s probably relatively safe for pregnant moms (my friend’s doctor even suggested it as a remedy for morning sickness.)

    • wmdkitty

      Marisa has a point, though. Not a whole lot of studies done on people who ONLY smoke pot. We tend to get lumped in with the rest of those “filthy addicts”. TBH, you’ll find a lot of pot smokers who are also productive members of society, and in professions you’d least expect. The reason you don’t hear a lot about us is because, hey, we’re stoned; causing panic, chaos and disorder takes too much effort!

  • To Celebrate Women

    I had a friend who died of cancer when we were in our early teens. During her chemo treatments (both with a hope of remission and, eventually, palliative), she used medical marijuana for the pain. And believe me, the side effects of chemo were so horrendous that her parents would have given her anything to combat them. There’s a point where you just have to do what will spare your child suffering, because there has just been too much of it already.

    • wmdkitty

      And if your child is tired of fighting it? If the child wants to just let go and cross the veil? Do you let the child go, or do you override hir will, and continue treatment?

    • To Celebrate Women

      I’m not sure what you’re getting at, here I’m talking about pain management, not life-prolonging stuff.

    • wmdkitty

      The logical conclusion of “you do what you gotta do”. Yes, many childhood cancers are put into remission, as are many adult cancers. Some even go away completely. But sometimes the cancer “wins”, and your body slowly shuts down — a fairly painful process. A patient who is terminally ill should have every right — regardless of age — to adequate pain control, and to choose a peaceful, pain-free, dignified death.

      I do agree that pain management is very, very important, and YES, you do what you have to do to keep the patient comfortably functional. And if proper pain management keeps a patient from choosing death, that is a Good Thing.

      I’m a little fuzzy-headed with the “benadryl stoopids” right now, so I don’t know if my words are making sense. Just… let me know if I can clarify anything further, and I will try to do so.

    • To Celebrate Women

      Yeah, that was what I meant with “you do what you gotta do”. When Abby (my friend) was dying, her parents immediately made it all about keeping her as comfortable as possible until the end. Why buy a few more days or weeks when it’s just going to be more suffering? And medical marijuana was part of that. Plus she got to claim she was a badass pothead to all her innocent middle-schooler friends ;)

  • Theresa

    Seeing as chemotherapy is pure poison which kills your body cells, I don’t think marijuana could make anything worse.

  • Marisa Miller

    I am so happy to not see a lot of “evil mom” comments. It’s amazing how willing we are to give our kids pills made in China that could be made out of who knows what. It’s amazing that the government won’t recognize medical marijuana when scientists have proof is stops tumor growth. I was hospitalized with the Kate Middleton’s several times while pregnant and was honest with the drs. at the hospital about my mmj use. Stupid me. apparently you should abort, instead of use a fucking HERB, to be able to carry a baby. or you should take Reglan. Which made my milk come in at 14 weeks. And causes cleft palate in way too large a number for me to feel comfy doping up the preggo lady. I got very lucky. When the hospital sent out CPS, the case worker had worked with enough AIDS patients to get that the benefits are very real and not just a ploy to get to party while pregnant.
    They also never seem to point out that often times, patients aren’t “smoking pot”. It’s in oil or other edible form. So I should ingest big pharma’s drug, instead of the one my husband grows in our closet? I hate the DEA.

  • Pie13

    How is this any different than giving a child in pain an opiate?

  • Andrea Fatkin

    Why would it need the supervision of a pediatrician. It’s FAR safer than children’s tylenol, and with fewer potential side effects. Yes, parents should be trusted to medicate their own children, there isn’t an over the counter med out there that’s safer.

    • wmdkitty

      I still think a physician’s supervision is a good thing, though.

    • Andrea Fatkin

      It certainly wouldn’t hurt, I’m guessing most parents would love to have a doctor on call for every decision.