Nightly News   |  July 09, 2013

Parents turn to medical marijuana to soothe sick children

In 17 states kids are able to get medical marijuana, by prescription, to treat everything from autism to cancer to seizures. Growers are now breeding the plants with low levels of the substance THC, which reportedly helps kids get the medicinal benefits of marijuana without the high. NBC’s Dr. Nancy Snyderman reports.

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>>> we are back with a medical treatment for children that parents say they know is controversial, yet many of them say it happens to work for their children. some parents have come to embrace the use of medical marijuana to treat a number of conditions and now some doctors are expressing real concerns. we get the story tonight from our chief medical editor dr. nancy snyderman .

>> reporter: when zakite jackson was six months old, he was diagnosed with a form of epilepsy that causes seizures.

>> he was having between 60 to 250 seizures a day.

>> reporter: his mom made the controversial decision to give her son marijuana.

>> despite the stigma associated with ckanncannabis, we really owed it to him.

>> the seizure activity was down. he started pumping his legs on the swings. i mean, he was nine years old, you teach your children that from the time they're three, and he could never get it.

>> it's really good medicine.

>> reporter: in 17 states, including colorado, where kai lives, kids are able to get medical marijuana by prescription to treat everything from autism to cancer to seizures. because growers can breed the plants with low levels of thc, they're getting just the medicinal benefits and not the high. still, some critics say marijuana used therapeutically could be a gateway to other drugs. it's not been clinically tested nor approved by the fda.

>> using marijuana as a medication is jumping the gun, we really don't know what the side effects or long term consequences of marijuana are on children.

>> we spoke to a mom whose child suffered from seizures and she tried everything, marijuana works.

>> a couple generations ago, people were recommending tobacco physicians were recommending tobacco as relaxation.

>> it's saving his life, and it's giving him a better quality of life .

>> regardless of where you stand, no one is arguing that marijuana or cannabis should be a first line drug of choice. after all efforts have been exhausted and parents are frustrated and have nowhere else to turn, increase lg i, the medical community and parents are looking at this as a last ditch effort.

>> you can tell this debate is just getting started. dr. nancy snyderman , thanks as always.