Despite cannabidiol (CBD) being federally legal in the United States, some parents continue to face severe consequences for administering it to their children. Even though the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) states that CBD oil is overall beneficial, parents are losing custody for utilizing it for various medical issues. As The News Station previously reported, proximity to the plant (even with the absence of THC) can cause severe disruption of family life.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, a compound found in cannabis, is everywhere these days; from infused water to cosmetics, there is no shortage of products that offer some form. Additionally, many reported benefits continue to surface about CBD as more research is being done; neurological, metabolic, cardiovascular, and autoimmune conditions are only some of the areas where CBD offered relief. With the availability of products and ongoing discovery of benefits, a parent is bound to have at least some curiosity.
Some parents are using CBD to treat severe skin conditions, while others use it to mitigate seizures or anxiety from PTSD. Kids are using it of their own accord and consequently being expelled from school for possessing CBD. Any type of application, be it a small dose of oil or an infused muffin that has no chance of getting a child high, carries a set of loaded implications.
Child welfare language remains vague, and mandatory reporters are left to determine which instances qualify as child abuse. It’s a gray area. One type of mandatory reporter (a professional in a position to care for children) in the welfare system is a pediatrician. While the goal is to avoid custody intervention, a pediatrician can initiate an investigation if there is a suspicion of neglect or abuse.
Even with documentation proving CBD improves a child’s quality of life, a pediatrician could view administration as grounds for intervention. D.C,-based social work professional Latoya S. Hogg tells The News Station that if a professional believes a parent is not following a medical plan, or if alternative methods could endanger a child’s well-being, a medical professional is required to initiate a call. After a call is made to the local Child Protective Services (CPS) hotline, the burden of proof is on the parent to show that CBD is improving the child’s quality of life, she says.
Hogg makes it clear that the method of administration is an important distinction. If a parent uses a CBD cream for a skin condition, there may be little to raise eyebrows. The biggest concern would likely be when and how a minor ingests the CBD. There would also need to be documented clarification as to why this alternative is being utilized instead of pharmaceuticals.
“Honestly, it could be the ignorance of holistic practice, or in some cases, if holistic practice begins to impede on the medical condition.”Latoya S. Hogg
Hogg makes it clear that she is not a medical professional, and this is her personal opinion based on her professional experiences.
Depending on the state, trace amounts of THC are allowed in CBD, and over time, it builds up. If a blood test is run at the pediatrician’s office for whatever reason, and it “pops” for THC, the physician will have to initiate a report with the local CPS. Once the report is made, the information is triaged and managed based on the severity of the situation, Hogg says. If an investigation begins, it is the responsibility of the pediatrician to report any additional information or suspicion of abuse.
Finding a pediatrician who will co-sign a treatment plan involving CBD is difficult unless there is a significant medical need for it. East Coast-based physician Dr. June Chin treats severe pediatric cases and doesn’t agree with adding CBD to a child’s routine unless it is medically necessary. Chin tells The News Station that the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is already functioning in most healthy children, so adding cannabis can interfere with developing brains.
Because children with healthy ECS brains have abundant cannabinoid receptors reacting to what is commonly referred to as the “bliss molecule” (anandamide), flooding those receptors with CBD could have adverse effects. Administering CBD to a child when not medically mandated may cause downregulation of the natural production of endocannabinoids in the body and brain. Put simply, it could have the opposite impact of the intended use.
Even though Chin disagrees with medically unapproved usage, she says that she wouldn’t report parents. A lot of pressure is on a pediatrician if there is suspicion of abuse, and they have little training to recognize child abuse accurately. Child abuse pediatricians, a sub-specialty that came into existence in 1997, is still so new that the specialty is rare in practice.
Without the support of a pediatrician, parents are taking a risk in administering CBD to their children for any reason. North Carolina-based family lawyer Jonathan Breeden tells The News Station that parents would do best to research state laws before exploring CBD as part of a treatment plan.
“Parents have the right to argue to child protective services that the child, or children, have not been harmed and neglected by giving them CBD. If CPS files a petition, they can present any evidence that proves this to the court at the hearing on the petition.”Jonathan Breeden
With the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, most states updated their hemp codes but did not change their child endangerment laws. Unless the product is an isolate, most CBD products contain some trace amount of THC, and Child Protective Services views administering the plant in any form the same way it would any other Schedule 1 substance. No matter the reason, giving children a Schedule 1 drug is grounds for an investigation from CPS.
Ultimately, unless there is no other alternative for symptom management, parents should avoid taking the risk of using CBD with their children. Unless a pediatrician is willing to work with your treatment plan, there is a lot of underlying certainty about potential intervention. Until a fundamental change happens in child welfare law, CBD won’t exist as a viable option for alternative pediatric care.
This essay is part of a series regarding the intersection of cannabis and child custody laws. See another story in the series here.