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Marijuana for kids? Some parents say it's their last hope

5:40 PM, Jul 11, 2013   |    comments
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Phoenix (KPNX) -- Since he was a baby, 10-year-old Zaki Jackson has suffered from life threatening seizures caused by epilepsy. After trying 17 medications over nine years, as a last resort, his mom listened to a doctor's recommendation.

"We are Christians, we are conservative... and we are using medical marijuana," says Heather Jackson. "That's kind of a big hump for people to get over."

Zaki takes the drug in syrup form.

"I probably stared at him for a good three hours after his first dose and then I fell asleep," Heather recalls. "I didn't feel any seizures after his very first dose."

He's been seizure free for nine months. Arizona is one of 17 states where kids are able to get medical marijuana from dispensaries, to treat conditions such as autism, cancer and seizures.

At Bloom dispensary near downtown Phoenix, Lezlie Engelking and her team sell medical marijuana. 

"It isn't for everybody, but it is a really good option for some people," she says.

Of the 37,598 patients are licensed to receive medical marijuana in Arizona, 36 of them are under the age of 18. If the thought of a child using medical marijuana sounds absurd, consider this: doctors say cannabis can tone down nerve cell stimulation and stop seizures without getting kids "stoned," because medical marijuana can be bred with a low level of THC; that's the compound that gets you high.

It can then be dispensed in various forms.

"If the child wanted to have a piece of candy, jolly rancher a cookie, a pill, a spice they put on pizza, something like that," says Engelking. 

Some agree with NBC's Dr. Nancy Snyderman that this is a growing trend. 

"I don't think this is going away. I think the more this is out there in the media -- I think the more info that is available to people  -- the more people will choose it just like anything."

But The American Academy of Pediatrics cautions medical marijuana to treat kids has not been clinically tested. But for parents like Heather Jackson, this alternative therapy has made a world of difference.

"We never really got to meet Zaki, because he started having seizures so early," Heather says. "Zaki is incredibly funny and charming and loving. It's been really nice to see him come awake."

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