CBD for Children: Will This Bring Child Protective Services to My Door?

CBD has so many beneficial uses for people; the dozens upon dozens of scientific studies and first-hand accounts speak for themselves. This is why some parents want to administer CBD to their children, especially if their young ones are experiencing some form of ailment. What exactly does the law say regarding CBD for children? Will a social worker come knocking on your door if word gets out that you’re treating a child’s illness with CBD?

This post will discuss the legality of cannabidiol products for minors and the adults that buy and possess them. For information on the medical applicability, see our post on CBD for kids.

Is CBD for Children Legal?

When it comes to cannabis, there is hardly ever a uniform answer. As is often the case, the answer falls in a gray area, which means we can’t provide a straight-up “yes” or “no.” We have already mentioned this in previous posts, but it bears repeating: Refer to state laws to determine if CBD oil is safe to purchase and use.

See the National Conference of State Legislatures for a state-by-state breakdown of marijuana laws. The page was compiled on November 2018, so it’s one of the most up to date as of the time of this post. The laws governing state marijuana laws also apply to children.

CBD Use by Children Has Landed Parents in Legal Limbo

Unfortunately, there are real-life horror stories of child protective services showing up unexpectedly after parents give their child a CBD product. We present these stories not to scare you, but to show you why it’s important to follow the marijuana laws in the state of your residence. There have been cases of parents believing they were within legal bounds only to discover the hard way they are violating state law.

Please keep in mind that the two stories we present below are not typical and represent some of the more extreme cases. The vast majority of parents who responsibly administer CBD to their children have never faced such situations.

The Selva Family

Aliana Selva is a 6-year-old California native with severe epilepsy. Her parents Jo and Maria administered her the anticonvulsant drug Keppra on the advice of a doctor. The drug, unfortunately, altered her mood, causing her to go from shy and sweet to aggressive and irritable. The parents eventually switched to CBD as they were desperate for a more side-effect-free alternative. Jo relayed the news to a school administrator when she was called after Aliana had a convulsion in class. Several days later, The Selvas received a phone call from Child Protective Services (CPS).

Long story short, Aliana was taken away by police. The parents were charged with “severe medical neglect.” Eventually, Aliana was returned to her parents after the case was dismissed by Juvenile Dependency Court.

The Zartler Family

The parents of 18-year-old Kara Zartler were brought to court after revelations they used cannabis to treat their daughter’s autism. This case is especially interesting because Kara is legally an adult. However, due to her medical issues, her parents are still considered her legal guardians.

The Zartler family is from Texas, which allows low-THC cannabis for medical use. Autism, however, isn’t one of the approved conditions under the state’s medical marijuana program. Fortunately, for the family, the court ruled that the Zartlers cannabis treatment for their daughter is in itself insufficient for disqualifying guardianship. They were permitted to continue use of cannabis for treating Kara.

Advice for Parents

Before administering CBD to a child, we recommend checking out the child custody section from Americans for Safe Access (ASA). It contains detailed information about how to minimize the possibility of a Child Protective Service agent knocking on your door.

To summarize, ASA outlines these steps for parents:

  • Keep no more cannabis in the home than is necessary for medical use.
  • Keep all cannabis products out of plain sight. Store them all in labeled bottles or jars.
  • If you are a grower who keeps cannabis plants around the property, install fencing to restrict your child from access.
  • Keep out of reach and sight any equipment or tools for cannabis-making, such as butane and burners.
  • Unless directly asked by a CPS agent or family court judge, there is no reason for you to disclose to these entities that you are giving your child CBD. In fact, there’s no reason to disclose the information to anyone. The only exception is to doctors — and that’s only if you’re on a medication that may be inhibited by cannabis use.

All of the above also applies if you or another adult is the user and not your child. There are also instances of CPS getting involved because the parents themselves were users. This brings us to our next section.

Advice for Cannabis Users with Children

So far, we discussed the potential legal ramifications for parents who give their children CBD. However, what if it’s the parents who are using cannabis? Unfortunately, due to the stigma of marijuana, parents have lost custody simply because one or both parents were users. This is especially the case in states that have yet to adopt some form of marijuana program. This is also becoming increasingly common in divorce court where one parent will cite the other’s cannabis use as reason for getting primary custody of the children.

You should be in the clear if you are using the cannabis in accordance with state law. In other words, the courts shouldn’t hold it against you. Nevertheless, we suggest following the same safety tips above. In addition:

  • Refrain from using cannabis in the presence of your children, even if medicating as prescribed by a doctor. This goes for CBD and hemp medicine as well.
  • If both parents are users, create a schedule so only one parent at a time is medicated.
  • If you cook with marijuana, label the food and keep them away from your children.

What to Do if CPS Shows Up at Your Door?

In the unlikely event a CPS agent contacts you for a welfare check, we advise cooperating fully. At the same time, know your rights. You may need to speak with an attorney knowledgeable in your state’s marijuana laws. If the agent removes your child from your home, you have two days to file a petition. You will be expected to give a statement, and the CPS worker will give his/her own statement explaining the reasoning for deciding to remove your child. The judge will decide whether your child can remain with you until the next court date.

Keep All Documentation

Here’s another CPS story involving the David family. The father Jason was giving his son Jayden CBD for treating Dravet Syndrome, a form of epilepsy. He shared his son’s progress with local reporters, one of whom notified authorities, prompting a visit from CPS. Jayden, however, was never taken from his home after Jason was able to show all proof of documentation regarding his son’s illness and treatment. What’s ironic is prior to taking CBD, young Jayden was hospitalized 45 times and on over 20 pharmaceutical drugs. Yet, none of this ever prompted a CPS visit.

Anyways, the takeaway lesson here is to maintain all paper records of your child’s medical diagnosis and all invoices and prescriptions for CBD. This applies regardless of state of residency.

Marijuana Possession Alone Not Grounds for Child Removal

We must also point out that cannabis use alone often isn’t enough for a CPS agent to remove a child from a home. This is especially true for states that permit recreational marijuana use. Some parents fear that a CPS worker’s own individual bias may come into play during a welfare check. Many of them, after all, may not have a knowledgeable understanding of cannabis and only recognize the plant’s federal classification as a controlled substance.

There are, however, judicial processes that limit CPS’ authority.

Armand Montiel, a representative for the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, made this statement to put parents’ mind at ease:

“If all you have is the subjectivity of the social worker, the child will not remain outside the home. We’re very careful.”

Of course, some defense attorneys and parents who had personal run-ins with CPS may disagree with this assessment. This is all the more reason to educate yourself on state law. California, for example, has Proposition 64, which permits adult recreational use. This provides a legal buffer and should protect parents as long as there is no other questionable activity taking place in the household.

Final Word

The reason we mention all of this isn’t to be all doom and gloom. After all, we are cannabis advocates. Remember, instances involving Child Protective Services over cannabis use and CBD for children are the exception and never the norm. 99 percent of parents who possess CBD products will never be confronted with such situations. However, we do want to put the information out there so you can minimize risks of a welfare check occurring at all. Should one do occur, you’ll know how to increase odds of a favorable outcome.

CBD for Kids: Can Children Safely and Legally Consume Cannabidiol?

Children face many of the same ailments that adults do, sometimes to even a greater degree. This includes illnesses like chronic pain, epileptic seizures and insomnia. In most instances, they also respond to the same treatment, though careful measures must be taken regarding dosage. This naturally leads to the topic at hand: CBD for kids. Is it safe for minors to consume CBD in any form? Is it legal?

Can Children Legally Consume CBD?

In case you’re wondering, the laws regarding CBD use applies to minors the same way it applies to adults. In other words, there’s no federal age requirement. This means you have to refer to the cannabis laws pertaining to your respective state.

We recommend visiting the National Cannabis Industry Association for a state-by-state break down of cannabis laws. Parents are known to travel or completely relocate to a cannabis-friendly state in order to lawfully administer CBD to an ill child.

In any case, we recommend speaking with your child’s pediatrician before giving CBD oil a try. Cannabidiol may interfere with some medications.

Can Minors Purchase CBD?

Purchasing CBD in a brick-and-mortar dispensary is a whole other issue altogether. As with purchasing alcohol, you have to be at least 21-years of age. Most dispensaries won’t even permit anyone under that age to enter their premise without an older adult. Even some cannabis sites ask visitors to confirm their age before being allowed to browse the site.

Next, let’s take a look at some of the conditions CBD oil may be useful for.

CBD for Kids with ADHD

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder affects roughly 5 percent of American children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Boys are three times more likely than girls to be diagnosed. Roughly 60 percent of children with ADHD will also face the condition as adults.

What role does CBD play in ADHD, if any? Studies in this area are still limited, though one study1 does show that cannabidiol holds promise for alleviating ADHD symptoms in adults.

There are not any studies we know of that examine the efficacy of CBD on children with ADHD. There are, however, plenty of anecdotal evidence from satisfied parents swearing by its effects.

CBD for Kids with Epilepsy

Scientific evidence of CBD for childhood epilepsy is more abundant. According to 2015 data, epilepsy affects roughly 470,000 children nationwide, or 0.6 percent of America’s youth.

We dedicated an entire post on CBD oil for seizures. Research supports the use of cannabidiol oil for children with frequent seizures. In one study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, 120 subjects underwent a 14-week treatment of CBD oil or a placebo. The subjects consisted of children and young adults diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome, a form of epilepsy triggered by fever or hot weather.

The results? The average number of convulsive seizures decreased from 12.4 to 5.9 per month for the CBD group. The placebo group saw an insignificant decrease from 14.9 to 14.1. 5 percent of subjects in the CBD group also became completely seizure-free.

In June 2018, the Food and Drug Administration also officially backed the use of CBD for kids with epilepsy. A CBD product called Epidiolex was greenlighted for treatment of the epilepsy conditions Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. Epidiolex can be prescribed to children two years of age and older.

CBD Oil for Children with Anxiety

According to a CDC mental health report, 3 percent of children 3-17 years of age face chronic anxiety. Of course, the majority of children and adults alike face some degree of anxiety induced by external circumstances. However, chronic and persisting anxiety is not normal. Fortunately, there is evidence suggesting CBD may alleviate incessant fear and worry in children.

In one study2, CBD oil proved effective for a 10-year-old female patient with pediatric anxiety. The anxiety occurred as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder stemmed from sexual abuse. The cannabidiol not only quelled her anxiety but also proved beneficial for her insomnia.

The study only involved a single subject, so obviously further studies are warranted before we can definitively recommend CBD oil for children with anxiety. However, other studies3 show that CBD is effective as an anxiolytic drug, meaning it treats anxiety in its various incarnations, from panic attacks to obsessive-compulsive disorders.

What About Social Anxiety?

This is a specific area of anxiety we wanted to discuss since social anxiety affects roughly 5 percent of children and teens. This can make it exceptionally difficult for kids to make friends and coexist with their peers at school. Social anxiety typically develops in children in their early to mid-adolescence (around ages 13-15). Teen girls are also more prone to the disorder. Symptoms include withdrawn behavior, anxiety about going to school, extreme self-consciousness and even suicidal thoughts in severe instances.

Is CBD oil a legitimate form of treatment for children suffering from social anxiety? There aren’t studies in this area that specifically involve minors as subjects. However, there is one research that demonstrates CBD’s effectiveness for alleviating anxiety in social situations.

In the study4, subjects with social anxiety participated in a public speaking activity. Public speaking is a common phobia for most individuals. Half of the subjects took 600 mg of CBD, the other half took a placebo. The CBD group exhibited less stress during their speaking performance. Monitoring showed they had a lower heart rate and lower blood pressure during their stint compared to the placebo.

CBD isn’t a cure-all for social-anxiety-prone teens. However, it may quell anxiety just enough to get them to move beyond their comfort zone.

Methods of CBD Administration for Kids

CBD oil is the most commonplace cannabis products. You may certainly administer it to your child. You can pour a few droplets onto their Captain Crunch or Lunchables. Some parents apply the under-the-tongue method for increased bioavailability, though this may prove difficult for younger children who may protest or refuse to hold still.

To really get your young ones to enjoy the supplement, we suggest CBD gummies for kids. CBD gummies are akin to Flinstone vitamins. The latter is known for motivating children to take a daily vitamin with its sweet chalky taste. It’s the same idea with CBD gummies for kids. It’s no different than eating regular gummy bears.

Can Children Legally Vape CBD?

Children are permitted to use CBD oils and edibles in accordance with state laws. Using a vape pen, though, is a different matter altogether. Individual states have their respective minimum vaping age. In 41 states, the minimum age is 18. The remaining states include Utah, Alaska and Alabama, where the age minimum is 19. The minimum age is 21 in California, Oregon, Massachusetts, Maine, New Jersey and Hawaii.

Local municipalities, though, may impose their own restrictions and enforce vaping and smoking bans for anyone under 21.

Simply put, for children under 18, vaping is prohibited. This applies whether or not the e-juice contains nicotine.

CBD Dosage for Children

What are dosage guidelines for minors? A lot of variables are at play, including sensitivity, bodyweight, and severity of ailment. In one study5, 214 child patients with epilepsy were given large CBD doses, as high as 50 mg/kg every day for 12 weeks. Convulsive seizures went down by a third with minimal adverse effects observed.

The study shows that CBD in large doses is relatively safe for minors. Even so, we recommend starting with the minimal dose needed to see results. For the average adult, suggested dosage is about 1/8 of a teaspoon three times daily. For children, start with 1/20 of a teaspoon three time a day. This totals to about 35-40 mg of CBD per day. If using a dropper, this comes down to about four drops each serving.

This should be adequate for general ailments, such as insomnia, pain, or anxiety. If taken for epilepsy, dosage may be up to 10x fold, depending on doctor recommendation.

Be Sure to Monitor for Side Effects

Due to their smaller size, younger children require smaller doses. For the same reason, they may also be more prone to side effects. We suggest seeing our post on potential CBD side effects. Adverse reactions apply to children just as they do to adults. Parents must take special care to monitor their children during CBD administration, especially during their initial trial.

We must emphasize that side effects are not commonplace. Remember we just mentioned that children with epilepsy were given doses up to 50 mg without showing signs of adverse reactions. Nevertheless, everyone is different, and some kids may be more sensitive.

CBD Oil May Improve Children’s Lives

We need to see more studies regarding the effects of CBD on children. The few studies available, though, are promising. If you choose to go this route, please follow the laws of your residing state. Just as importantly, only purchase CBD oil or gummies from a trustworthy supplier. Poor-quality oils and edibles may contain THC, which may heighten risk of side effects.

See our Where to Buy page for a list of reputable suppliers.

Medical References

Cooper R, Williams E, Seegobin S, Tye C, Kuntsi J, Asherson P. Cannabinoids in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: A randomised-controlled trial. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2017;27(8):795-808. [PubMed]
Shannon S, Opila-Lehman J. Effectiveness of Cannabidiol Oil for Pediatric Anxiety and Insomnia as Part of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Report. Perm J. 2016;20(4):108-111. [PMC]
Schier A, Ribeiro N, Silva A, et al. Cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa constituent, as an anxiolytic drug. Rev Bras Psiquiatr. 2012;34 Suppl 1:S104-10. [PubMed]
Bergamaschi M, Queiroz R, Chagas M, et al. Cannabidiol Reduces the Anxiety Induced by Simulated Public Speaking in Treatment-Naïve Social Phobia Patients. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2011;36(6):1219-1226. [PMC]
Devinsky O, Marsh E, Friedman D, et al. Cannabidiol in patients with treatment-resistant epilepsy: an open-label interventional trial. Lancet Neurol. 2016;15(3):270-278. [PubMed]