Dr John Lawson, a child neurologist at Sydney Children's Hospital, told the Australian Financial Review on Monday that the jury remains out on whether the plant-based drug is effective in the treatment of child epilepsy. The doctor also stressed the importance of not merely equating anything that is from nature as good.
Trials will occur in the Australian state of New South Wales following an announcement by Premier Mike Baird and Health Minister Jillian Skinner in December 2014. The two politicians said that children with severe epilepsy, terminally ill adults and patients with chemotherapy-induced nausea will participate in three trials.
At the time of Mr Baird's news, the NSW government was dissuading police officers from charging terminally-ill adults, as well as their carers, who use marijuana. The Premier spoke of an initiative based on "compassion", and a need to address the "incredibly difficult circumstances" of both patients and their loved ones.
The avid interest in the effects of medical marijuana on child epilepsy is primarily a product of the well-publicised news pieces from the U.S., in which the drug treatments were successful. However, Dr Lawson explained:
"... we can find out if there's any real truth in it, because it's really only a handful of stories we are basing things on and it's really only a handful of families giving their children who knows what ... They're giving them leaves and all sorts of weird stuff."
The doctor also clarified that medicinal marijuana for children contains no psychoactive properties that lead to a "high"—it is prescribed as an oil with "another component, called Cannabidiol, that has a very low psychoactive rate."
If the trials show conclusive evidence of relief for sufferers, then the Baird government has already set aside A$9 million, while the procurement arrangement for the drug is being negotiated.