Medical Marijuana Use For Autism Approved By Colorado Governor

By Paul Gaita 04/11/19

The monumental new law was approved on World Autism Awareness Day.

doctor holding a container of medical marijuana in Colorado

Autism spectrum disorder has been added to the list of disabling conditions that may be treated with medical marijuana in the state of Colorado.

High Times reported that Governor Jared Polis signed a house bill legalizing the use of medical marijuana for the treatment of autism last Tuesday (April 2); House Bill 1028 had initially passed the Centennial State's House and Senate in 2018, but was rejected by Polis' predecessor, John Hickenlooper, who cited a lack of support from pediatricians and certain autism groups as the root of his decision.

A young person may become a medical marijuana patient if they are diagnosed with a disabling medical condition by two physicians.

The bill's passed the House unanimously on February 7.

Parental groups who advocated for the bill say that the outcome was worth the long wait. "This passage happened for a reason," said Michelle Walker of Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism. "Because with 1028, we were able to ensure that individuals with autism and autistic people would have access, whereas the previous program created would have restricted access. Now, we've expanded access."

Currently, nine states including Colorado, and Puerto Rico, include autism as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana treatment. Five other states, including California and Massachusetts, as well as Washington, D.C., are regarded as "autism friendly," because they allow doctors to use their own discretion when recommending marijuana for debilitating conditions.

Though opinions vary as to the effectiveness of cannabis for autism, families have reported seeing positive results in their autistic children after using medical marijuana.

Medical professionals have often cited the lack of a large clinical trial that could determine the effectiveness and safety of using marijuana to treat children with autism.

Trials have taken place in Israel and Chile, and the first large-scale clinical trial in the United States began in 2018. Funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense, the trial will examine whether a cannabis-based compound called CBDV is effective in treating aspects of autism spectrum disorder. It is expected to be completed in 2021.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.