New Colorado Cash-Crop: Kids?

By Luke Richards

According to an extra published by the Denver Post called State of Hope, as of today, there are over 427 children under 18 on the State of Colorado’s medical marijuana registry, including more than 13 under 2 years old. That number has jumped from only 60 in August 2013, when a CNN documentary aired. More families apply everyday.

The number of juvenile medical marijuana patients in Colorado has jumped more than 700 percent since last summer. The increase coincided with a highly publicized documentary on one young girl using marijuana, or more specifically, cannabidiol to control seizures.

What is CBD? CBD — or cannabidiol, as it’s known scientifically — is one of dozens of compounds in marijuana called cannabinoids. The compounds work by plugging into receptors on nerve cells, although much of their activity is still unclear. Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the most famous cannabinoid found in marijuana. But, unlike THC, CBD does not get users stoned.

How is CBD taken? Kids using CBD don’t smoke it. Instead, it comes infused into a cooking oil, like olive, coconut, or safflower oil. Typically, parents are told to administer the oil under their children’s tongues. Some families choose to mix it in food or must give it through a feeding tube depending on the severity of the child.

 How is CBD oil made? No child in Colorado currently takes pure CBD. Instead, think of a marijuana plant like a chunk of gold ore. Only a tiny part of it is valuable; the rest needs to be refined away. To do this, CBD producers grow marijuana plants that are high in CBD and then use a solvent to dissolve the cannabinoids off the harvested plant material. The resulting slurry has the same cannabinoid makeup of the plant it came from. Depending on the method, the solvent may be evaporated away and the rest is diluted into oil.

How much does it cost? Overall cost varies based on the amount a child takes, which itself varies based on how big the child is. Different providers also charge different prices. For kids using Charlotte’s Web, a typical family spends about $300 a month for CBD oil.

Today, the largest and most well known group is Realm of Caring based out Colorado Springs. Once noted to have a waiting list over 10,000 patients long, now serves more than 350 patients in Colorado, with an affiliate group in California serving about 150.

It’s not just that parents are taking a gamble by moving to Colorado. It’s that they don’t even know the odds. “When these kids come, we hear a lot about it,” said Dr. Larry Wolk, head of the Colorado health department and a skeptic of the treatment’s success. “They get their CBD oil or their Charlotte’s Web. And if they respond, we continue to hear about it. If they don’t, they quickly disappear.”

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