Mykayla Comstock, 7, is one of 52 children in the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program. Her mother administers a daily dosage equivalent to smoking up to 10 joints of the drug in 24 hours to treat symptoms of leukemia and chemotherapy for leukemia.
Mykayla receives a potent capsule form of the drug twice a day. According to Oregon Live, Mykayla's mother, Erin Purchase, says the marijuana helps to fight off infections and depression.
Mykayla's use of medicinal marijuana is under an Oregon law that empowers parents to administer the drug to their children. The law was approved 14 years ago and does not require that a pediatrician monitor a child's use of the drug under parental supervision.
According to Oregon Live, "The law instead invests authority in parents to decide the dosage, frequency and manner of a child's marijuana consumption. The state imposes no standards for quality, safety or potency in the production of marijuana. "
This is in spite of the fact that not enough is known about how the drug works and in spite of the evidence that long-term use of marijuana can damage intellect, memory and attention.
When Mykayla's father, who is divorced from the girl's mother, pays child support and covers the girl's health insurance, discovered that his daughter was using the drug, he called child welfare officials and police. According to Jesse Comstock: "She was stoned out of her mind. All she wanted to do was lay on the bed and play video games."
He said he observed odd behavior in the girl during a visit and took her to a lab, where THC levels of an adult marijuana user were detected. After police examined her medical marijuana paperwork, they told Jesse Comstock there was nothing they could do to stop her mother from administering the drug.
But Comstock, who has used pot in the past, remains worried. He said: "She's not terminally ill. She is going to get over this, and with all this pot, they are going to hinder her brain growth. It's going to limit her options in life because of the decisions her mother has made for her."
However, Erin Purchase and her boyfriend Brandon Krenzler, also marijuana users, have faith in the efficacy of the drug and say that it helps to protect her from the symptoms of leukemia and symptoms of chemotherapy, including pain, nausea, vomiting, depression and sleep disturbances.
Oregon Live quotes Mykayla, saying; "Marijuana makes me feel happy."
The illness began last spring with fevers, cough, night sweats and leg rash. After initial treatment with antibiotics on suspicion of strep throat, her health worsened. After further medical investigation, she was diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Purchase began using medical marijuana for her daughter soon after the diagnosis. Her testimony in favor of marijuana is that she knows someone whose lung cancer went into remission after he used marijuana. Purchase is also an Oregon Medical marijuana patient. She says that in 2010, she successfully treated vomiting caused by a metabolic condition with medical marijuana. She also used the drug during her second pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
Mykayla reportedly went into remission within a month of starting the drug. Although cancer specialists say the remission was expected, Purchase believes that medical marijuana forced the remission.
Mykayla describes the effect of taking marijuana capsules: "First you get hungry. Then you get really funny, and then you get tired."
According to Oregon Live, Mykayla receives half-a-gram of cannabis oil twice a day: once in the morning, and again in the afternoon. She may take up to 1.2 grams of cannabis oil in 24 hours, the equivalent of smoking up to 10 joints.
The drug caused her to sleep for hours when she began using it. According to Krenzler, this is the sign that Mykayla is adjusting to the drug. He said: "Once you get used to it and you gain a tolerance, it doesn't make you high."
But in spite of Purchase's and Krenzler's faith in marijuana, doctors say that pot does not cure leukemia. Oregon Live reports that Dr. Janice Olson, the medical director of the children's cancer and blood disorders program at Legacy Emanuel's Randall Children's Hospital, called the girl's marijuana use "inappropriate."
The American Academy of Pediatrics is opposed to use of the drug in children.
Dr. Sharon Levy, an author of the academy's anti-pot resolution, said that although marijuana has been found effective for treating nausea and vomiting in adults "it isn't a medicine."
But meanwhile, Purchase continues to administer the drug to her daughter, saying her daughter would make the decision when to stop.
She defends her action, saying she had to take a decision for her daughter when she was "walking a line between life and death."
She said: "As a mother, I am going to try anything before she can potentially fall on the other side."
Oregon Live reports Mykayla's mother maintains a Facebook page dedicated to her daughter's health and use of medical marijuana.