With the recent legalization of cannabis in Canada, you’ve probably been hearing quite a bit of chatter about cannabis’ two most popular chemical compounds: Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). While THC is known for producing the intoxicating effects that are associated with recreational marijuana, CBD does not produce any mind-altering effects. This has made CBD’s popularity as an alternative medicine skyrocket over the last few years. It has been widely applied as a remedy for issues ranging from chronic pain and inflammation to anxiety and seizures. While its therapeutic uses are still being extensively studied, they seem to be boundless.

But is trying CBD for children wise – or legal?

Before we delve into the laws surrounding CBD, let’s talk about whether this compound can actually be used as an effective treatment for children with hard-to-treat ailments. When a child is sick and conventional medicine is providing no relief, parents often seek alternative remedies. Over the past few years, CBD has become an increasingly popular choice for parents with ailing children. But is this really wise?

Extensive research has found that CBD is effective in reducing seizures in people with Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, two common forms of epilepsy. These studies resulted in the Food and Drug Administration approving Epidiolex as the first prescription CBD-based medication in 2018. The emergence of Epidiolex in the pharmaceutical world has helped legitimize CBD as an alternative medicine. However, using CBD to manage childhood conditions remains controversial. Here’s what you need to know if you are considering CBD for your child.

CBD for Anxiety

One of the most common uses of CBD is for the treatment of anxiety. Anxiety is perhaps the most common emotional and behavioral problem faced by children and adults alike. According to the Depression Alliance, anxiety can be summed up as a state of restlessness and excessive worry. A 2017 report released by the World Health Organization claimed that nearly 264 million people live with anxiety worldwide.

CBD eases the mind and body into a state of balance by interacting with several of the body’s receptors that are known to regulate fear and anxiety. Evidence from multiple studies demonstrates that CBD is effective in reducing anxiety behaviours that are relevant to disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and OCD.

CBD for Autism

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a range of conditions related to challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. An Israeli study found that medical cannabis improved conditions in 80% of children on the autism spectrum. The study further found that CBD improved communication in half of the children tested and decreased anxiety in 40%.

CBD for Seizures

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder in which an abnormal electrical activity in the brain spreads and causes seizures or periods of unusual behavior and loss of awareness. Many anti-seizure drugs work by slowing down the erratic nerve activity in the brain.

A recent study conducted by the Epilepsy Society used randomized trials of pure CBD in children and young adults with Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS) and found a significant reduction in monthly seizures. These trials also found a greater reduction in drop seizures in patients taking CBD. A 2019 review on Epidiolex found a sustained reduction in seizure frequency between 30 and 63 percent. Additionally, seizures were found to be about half as severe when they did occur.

Now that we know that CBD can be an effective treatment for certain disorders, the question remains: Is it even legal to use for children?

Under the Cannabis Act, the legal age for the consumption of recreational cannabis is 19. This differs in some provinces – Quebec and Alberta, for example, have lowered the legal age for consumption to 18.

Unlike recreational cannabis, however, there is no minimum age for medical consumption of cannabis. Since medical cannabis requires a physician’s recommendation and ongoing treatment by a doctor, there are no age restrictions. This means that as long as your child’s pediatrician deems CBD-based products an effective medical treatment, your child is legally entitled to use CBD medication.

While the World Health Organization has concluded that CBD is generally safe with limited risks, it is important to exercise caution when administering CBD to a child. Adverse effects could occur if CBD is mixed with other medication or if the product contains traces of THC. This is why it is extremely important to consult a physician and use approved CBD products for your children.