Alberta backs off from forcing epileptic girl to stop cannabis-derived treatment

Alberta appears to have stepped back from a fight to stop a four-year-old girl from receiving a marijuana-derived treatment for her seizures.

LEDUC — Alberta appears to have stepped back from a fight to stop a four-year-old girl from receiving a marijuana-derived treatment for her seizures.

Brian Fish, lawyer for the girl’s mother, says the Crown has withdrawn a request for an order that would have forced his client to stop giving her daughter cannabidiol and submit her to conventional treatment.

The mother says traditional drugs were ineffective against the girl’s seizures and doctors were suggesting brain surgery as an alternative.

The Canadian Press is not identifying the girl or her mother because of provisions in Alberta’s Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act.

Cannabidiol is a non-intoxicating part of hemp that the girl was taking in pill form.

The mother says it significantly reduces her daughter’s seizures and that forcing her to stop taking it would be cruel.

“Somebody believed that cannabidiol is illegal and that is a basis for apprehending the child. That is not a basis under the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act,” Fish said outside a courtroom in Leduc, south of Edmonton, after the application was withdrawn.

Fish said it appeared that someone reported the family to child welfare. Workers met with the mother, he said, but she was unwilling to cease her daughter’s treatment with cannabidiol, so the province applied for a supervision order.

The mother is seeking a medical marijuana exemption for the girl, something that was already in the works before child welfare became involved, Fish said.

Cannabidiol has been widely touted as a potential therapy for hard-to-treat forms of epilepsy. But many doctors say there’s little medical evidence to show if the compound is effective or safe.

In British Columbia, Michelle Arnold and Justin Pierce have been seeking a court order to allow them to continue to use cannabis oil to treat their baby girl, who also has epilepsy and is clinging to life in a Vancouver hospital.

Mary Jane Pierce was born premature at 25 weeks and has been in hospital ever since with serious health problems, including brain bleeding, cerebral palsy and severe seizures.

Pierce said doctors recently stopped administering the oil to Mary Jane, even though he claims the cannabidiol was helping to control her seizures.

A lawyer for B.C. Women’s Hospital, however, has said it might have worsened the girl’s symptoms.

The Chilliwack couple alleges the Ministry of Children and Family Development pressured them into giving it temporary custody about two weeks ago and moved to remove the baby’s ventilator soon after.

A judge granted a temporary injunction last week to keep the child on life support and at a hearing Friday the ministry agreed not to take her off the machine. The parents are set to return to court next month to seek greater control of their daughter’s care.

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