Medical Marijuana: Dad Says It Saved Two-Year-Old Son with Cancer

Categories: Marijuana
Thumbnail image for cash hyde-thumb-250x156.jpg
Cash Hyde
There are many ways to look at the story of two-year-old brain-tumor survivor Cash Michael Hyde, whose father, Michael, secretly slipped him medical marijuana oil in his feeding tube during chemotherapy last fall.

You could assume that the plant is an effective drug.

Chemotherapy left Cash unable to eat for 40 days; he was racked with seizures that, doctors warned, could lead to brain damage. Immediately after putting the marijuana oil in his feeding tube, the seizures stopped and Cash's appetite returned, Mike Hyde told ABC News.

And then a miracle happened.

A year after doctors found the 4.5-centimeter tumor wrapped around his optical nerve, Cash was declared cancer-free last week. He returned home to Missoula, Montana from a children's hospital in Salt Lake City four months after the unauthorized medical marijuana treatment.

The other way of looking at this story is the medical community's complete unwillingness to discuss their patient's recovery. No doctors -- including Cash's, who were kept in the dark about the treatment by Mike Hyde -- would speak to ABC News about the toddler's recovery, the news outlet reported. They wouldn't talk to SF Weekly either.

All week, we've tried to talk to a local pediatric expert, from UCSF, Stanford, and the California chapter of the American Association of Pediatrics, to discuss the situation. No response from anyone, which is odd since, in California, it's legal to give medical marijuana to a child with a serious medical condition.

This is not the first time a news outlet has contacted the experts at Stanford's Lucile Packard Children's Hospital asking about medical pot, Robert Dicks, a spokesman with the hospital told us. "The last time, I couldn't find any experts who had done any research [and was ergo willing to talk]," Dicks says. "Nobody has any facts or figures to go on in regards to this."

That will likely continue to be the case as long as marijuana is illegal under federal law. It's impossible to conduct verifiable clinical trials on a substance that the FDA won't regulate, because the Drug Enforcement Administration is actively trying to purge it.

Medical marijuana and kids was discussed in an article last winter in the California Pediatrician, the American Academy of Pediatrics's California chapter's publication of record.

"There are anecdotal reports of the successful use of medical marijuana by adolescents for the treatment of a variety of health conditions," wrote the article's author, Dr. Seth Ammerman (who, we'd like to note, is a research professor at the erstwhile-silent Packard Hospital at Stanford).

Does that mean kids should try it? Not on Ammerman's recommendation. "There are no published studies on the use of medical marijuana in the pediatric or adolescent patient populations," he writes. "As with any other prescribed medication for adults, children should not have access to medical marijuana."

At least that's the position of doctors -- publicly. Privately, physicians can and do recommend medical cannabis as a treatment for children with serious medical conditions, including cancer, according to local attorney Derek St. Pierre.

One of Pierre's clients, a San Francisco medical cannabis dispensary, once received a 13-year old cancer patient, with a parent in tow. "They asked, 'What do we do?'" St. Pierre recalled. "I said, 'Make insanely sure their paperwork [the recommendation from a doctor] is in order. Quadruple check it.' If it is, there's really no reason to deny it."

The dispensary, which St. Pierre did not name, has since been providing medical marijuana to the teen, who always comes with a parent, St. Pierre said. And it's legal. While most dispensaries in San Francisco refuse to admit patients younger than 18 -- and others must restrict entry to folks 21 and over to maintain a business permit in the neighborhood -- there's nothing in 1996 Compassionate Use Act about an age requirement.

Technically, what Mike Hyde did to save his son's life was illegal -- while the Hydes are residents of Montana, where medical marijuana is legal (though Republicans in that state's legislature are working to overturn the Montana's medical marijuana laws), Cash Hyde was in a hospital in Utah, which does not have a medical marijuana law. Whether or not Hyde could face charges of child endangerment "would revolve around the recommendation from the doctor," St. Pierre said, "though I have never dealt with that specific issue."

Yet the results are there -- on national television, now that ABC's national affiliates have picked up on the story. When will the medical community be willing to admit and embrace them publicly?

Probably as soon as they -- and their insurers -- can be assured that they won't be locked up or sued. Your move, Congress.

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