Should sick kids be given access to medical marijuana? New Jersey is the latest state to say yes. While it's legal here in Washington as well, that doesn't make it any less controversial.
When someone recently filed a complaint about a Seattle-based nurse practitioner who allegedly recommended medical marijuana to two kids who were just four and six years old, the State Department of Health did not take it lightly.
An investigation detailed in a Statement of Charges found the two kids were brought to that nurse practitioner because neither child was eating and they were both losing weight.
The nurse practitioner diagnosed both children as having a wasting condition, but the Department of Health says that is not an independent pediatric diagnosis without a concurrent illness.
Investigators found the nurse practitioner failed to conduct a complete physical exam of both patients. They say he also failed to adequately review their medical history.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health told KING 5 the goal of this kind of disciplinary action is to ensure that standards are met and conduct is professional.
This recent case, for people in the medical industry, only fueled the fire surrounding this controversial issue.
"I have never considered giving a child a recommendation to use marijuana medically, there's no evidence for it," said Dr. Leslie Walker, who works at Seattle Children's Hospital.
Supporters argue access to the drug can help kids battling everything from cancer to seizures, but others, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, worry about the long term and still unknown effects marijuana could have on kids.
"We are not finding any evidence to use marijuana for kid's illnesses," said Walker. "So when you find somebody recommending that, look further, and make sure you're really making an informed decision for your child and their health."
Naturopathic Doctor Cathleen Naughton provides medical cannabis evaluations for patients at Nature's Medical Group in Seattle.
She says she's recommended medical marijuana for children before, and she wouldn't hesitate to do it again. She believes it helps with epilepsy, cerebral palsy, and pain.
"I do approve of using the non-psychoactive forms of cannabis for a child," she said. "Those are my feelings, I think it's appropriate sometimes."
Naughton says she never recommends a child smoke medical marijuana. Instead, she suggests it's administered in an edible form or a tincture.
The nurse practitioner now accused of unprofessional conduct has submitted a formal response to the statement of charges against him. He intends to defend his actions at a Department of Health hearing set for January of 2014.
At that hearing, the Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission could choose to drop the charges, suspend his license, or order additional education.