Sick children younger than 18 will gain access to non-smokeable medical marijuana on Oct. 1, when a new Connecticut law takes effect.
The state, which legalized medical marijuana for adults in 2012, will make it available to children suffering from certain conditions: terminal illness, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, uncontrolled intractable seizure disorders, or certain irreversible spinal cord injuries.
Parents and caregivers have been allowed since the beginning of the month to start registering for access to medical marijuana for their children. In order to receive access they must have a physician certify that the patient has one of the above qualifying conditions and that the use of medical marijuana is in the patient’s best interest. Patients under the age of 18 are not able to obtain their medication in a smoke-able, inhalable, or vaporizable form.
Under the new law, the state Medical Marijuana Program’s Board of Physicians must include a member who is a board-certified pediatrician. The state Department of Consumer Protection announced Monday that Dr. William T. Zempsky has been appointed to the board.
Zempsky is affiliated with Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and is a professor of pediatrics at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, specializing in pediatric pain management. He is the lead author of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ policy statement regarding pain management in emergency medical systems for children.
A graduate of Cornell University and the Johns Hopkins University, he was appointed by DCP in consultation with the Connecticut chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, according to state officials.
Dr. Linda Barry, assistant professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Connecticut Health Center; and Dr. Andrew L. Salner, director of the cancer program at the Helen and Harry Gray Cancer Center of Hartford Hospital, also have been appointed to the board.
Barry, a board-certified liver and pancreas surgeon, also is chief operating officer and assistant director of the Connecticut Institute for Clinical and Translational Science at UConn. She also is co-managing editor of The Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities.
Salner specializes in radiation oncology and has served as director of radiation oncology at Hartford Hospital. He teaches at the UConn School of Medicine and is researching cancer communications for patients and families, as well as cancer early detection for the underserved.
The new members join five existing members of the board and DCP Commissioner Jonathan Harris, who is an ex officio member.
“The Board of Physicians is an important part of the Medical Marijuana Program,” Harris said in a statement. “The Board is charged with advising the Department on the medical aspects of the program, including whether additional medical conditions, treatments or diseases should qualify for the palliative use of medical marijuana. We take their advice and recommendations very seriously.”
There is no set schedule of meetings for the board, DCP Legislative Director Leslie O’Brien, said. The group most recently met on June 6; the meeting prior to that was Aug. 19, 2015.
As of Monday, there were 13,200 adults in Connecticut registered with the medical marijuana program.