Why Does a Parent Have to be a Caregiver for Older Children?

Joe Evans
Joe Evans - Content Writer

Oct 16 2021 - 4 min read

While there remains some controversy around cannabis and minors, most medical programs allow qualifying children to become patients — but they can’t get access to treatment without an adult caregiver. 

There is existing research and evidence that medical cannabis can be transformational for some children’s lives. One of the most well-known conditions for children using cannabis is epilepsy, which most programs acknowledge.

Researchers showed that full-spectrum cannabis oil is incredibly effective in reducing tremors, the frequency of seizures and symptom flare-ups, and helping them live as normal of a childhood as possible. So if all of that is true, why do older minors still need to have caregivers instead of getting or growing their medicine themselves? 

It makes sense that younger child medical patients, for example, under the age of 16, shouldn’t buy or dose their own medicine. But for older medical patients, usually, in the age range of between 16-21, the lack of ability to control their treatment might feel deeply frustrating. You’re independent and responsible, right? We get it, and we understand. Plus, to compound that frustration, an underage patient’s caregiver would likely have to be their parent or guardian. 

Despite their angst-ridden teenage arguments for the ability to manage their own medicine, however, there are some core reasons why teenagers and young adults can’t do so. 

Continued and Outdated Federal Illegality of Cannabis 

Despite decades of hard work and advocacy from groups and individuals on the side of legal cannabis, the battle rages on. Cannabis is still federally illegal in the U.S., despite Canada and Mexico both legalizing recreationally. 

So how does that impact medical patients? Cannabis still being federally illegal means for the residents of many states, patients only have access via medical programs. According to state law, for those under the age of 18 to 21, however, medical access isn’t an option without a caregiver. 

While the idea of legal cannabis might be widely popular with the vast majority of the American public, there’s still a long way to go before it’s legal. While legislation moving through the system would do just that, there’s still a way to go before that could happen. 

Simply put, as long as cannabis is federally classified as illegal, those under the age of 18 won’t be able to access it. And even when it’s legal, the substance will likely be treated the same as cigarettes and alcohol and slapped with age limits. In the meantime, the best way for underage patients to access their medicine is via a designated caregiver. 

Cannabis Dosage Challenges for Minors

Just like any medicine, cannabis must be carefully and correctly dosed. And no matter how mature a teenager may appear to be, adult supervision when it comes to medicine is always recommended. With cannabis, this is even more important. 

The types of products that medical cannabis patients have consistent access to can often be very difficult to dose. Edibles, infused cannabis oils, and capsules usually take a while to kick in, and their effect can depend on weight, sex, tolerance level, and a handful of other factors. 

Without a caregiver being involved in the process, it would be incredibly easy for an underaged patient to take far too much or far too little of their medicine to get the desired effects. That means that an underaged patient is likely to have a bad time without the helping hand of their parent or guardian guiding them in the right direction. 

While cannabis has profound medical effects, it can only do so if it’s in the right amount. Too little means there are not enough cannabinoids in their system to make a difference for their symptoms, and too much means they’re too high to function properly. When it comes to medical cannabis, it’s all about balance and finding the proper dose for you individually. With a caregiver, that process of trial and error can be a bit more precise and less guesswork. 

After all, trusting an underaged medical patient between the age of 16-21 with an ample supply of cannabis products and no oversight is a bit of a stretch for even the most open-minded pro-cannabis advocate out there. 

Different States, Different Ages

Aside from the two reasons listed above, the main argument for the presence of a caregiver is that the process of getting a medical cannabis card as an underaged patient can be so incredibly complicated. 

While getting a medical card of your own as an adult might be quick and easy, thanks to Leafwell, that’s not the case with underaged patients. For minors, there’s a whole bunch of moving parts that they need to consider. 

First and foremost, different states have different ages that they can get a card themselves. One state’s medical program might allow 18-year-olds to get cards of their own, while others might make them wait until they turn 21. Some state programs require that the parent or guardian attend the appointment with the child, while others only require the parent or guardian to speak with the physician. Beyond that, many states put requirements in place, such as seeing two separate healthcare professionals or only allowing pediatricians to certify underage patients, due to the continued federal illegality of cannabis, state-per-state medical laws are like a patchwork quilt. 

That also means that every state with a medical program likely has different rules and regulations, so underage patients need to navigate that to get their cards successfully. As independent as a 17-year-old medical patient thinks they are, they likely aren’t equipped to do everything necessary to obtain, renew, or maintain care of their own. 

Another factor to consider is money. Renewing and getting a medical cannabis card of their own costs money. If an underaged patient qualifies for a medical card, they likely have a condition that would prevent or seriously inhibit their ability to work a job as a teen. The pricing factor can largely be taken out of the mix with a caregiver involved, especially if you’re using a service like Leafwell and their team of certified cannabis doctors. 

Get A Medical Card For Your Teenager

If you’re the parent or guardian of a teenager or a teenager reading this for more information, Leafwell can help you. Reach out to our customer service team today and find out more about how to get a medical card for medical cannabis as a minor in your state now, and we’ll have the answers to your questions.

Written by
Joe Evans
Joe Evans

Joe Evans is a journalist, writer, editor and contributor for Leafwell. He has, to date, more than 5,000 articles published online under his byline on topics like cannabis, local and National news, politics, automotive news, sports, pop culture and even a cult.

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