No Cannabis for Children with Severe Autism in Michigan

Recently, Michigan officials rejected desperate attempts by parents to fight for access to cannabis for the treatment of autism. Medical marijuana passed with 63% in 2008, but not for children with severe autism. No US state lists autism as an illness qualifying for medical marijuana, however, it is tolerated in California and Washington, D.C. Michigan would have been the first to list autism specifically.

Mike Zimmer rejected petitions from parents of autistic children in Michigan. Zimmer was appointed last year as director of the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs(LARA). Zimmer rejected the petition using “insufficient scientific research” as the reason. The four-page decision cites worries such as the potential for cannabis to do more harm than good to children that are mildly affected by Autism. Dr. Harry Chugani is chief of pediatric neurology and a medical marijuana opponent. “The vast majority of kids with autism do not need pot, and I won’t sign for it,” Chugani said, explaining that cannabis should only be used for “very bad behaviors, aggression, meltdowns.”

Several petitioners mention leaving the state. Lisa Smith of Van Buren Township, is the mother of Noah, a 6-year-old boy with autism. Since Noah depends on cannabis oil, Lisa Smith worked hard on the petition. Robin Schneider is a spokeswoman for the National Patient’s Right Association. Schneider told the Detroit Free Press “… In this circumstance, [Lisa Smith] did an incredible job of putting together a great deal of scientific information,” Schneider said. “It’s my understanding that she is leaving the state.”

Dwight Zahringer has a pre-school aged son diagnosed with autism. Zahringer said that he’s “obviously disappointed.”. “I’m going to have to keep looking at more treatment options and to be part of the movement to educate these people in Lansing,” Dwight Zahringer said. “I feel like we’ve had a lot of politics involved in decisions like this.”

David Brogen is one of the LARA panel members that initially voted yes to approve cannabis for autism. The panel voted 4-2 in favor of cannabis treatment. “Frankly, I’m sad.” Brogen said. Brogen is a medical marijuana patient himself, using cannabis to treat multiple sclerosis. “I dare say, this is not over. I will continue to work with the parents and families who face this challenge,” added Brogen.

Currently, Michigan and Montana are the only medical marijuana states that ban alternative means of administering cannabis. In Michigan, cannabis is only legal in the smoked form or in edibles. There still is hope, however. House bill 4210 would broaden the list of qualifying illnesses for medical marijuana. The bill is currently being reviewed by the House Judiciary Committee.

There’s 3 million Americans suffering from Autism and there’s no cure. The Autism Society of America ASA recently published a study examining the benefits of cannabis for autism.

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