Michigan Panel to Vote on Medical Marijuana for Autism


Michigan regulators will soon be voting on whether to include autism as a qualifying condition for the use of medical cannabis.

The vote by Michigan's Department of Licensing & Regulatory Affairs (LARA) will take place on July 31st, writes Bill Laitner of the Detroit Free Press. Doctors will be presenting the conclusions of research to a panel who will determine whether the evidence is sufficient in favor of cannabis as a treatment for autism.

Dr. Christian Bogner of the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine in Michigan is the primary doctor involved in the effort, according to Leafly. He doesn't want to supplement all treatment methods with marijuana, but wants to give people the option. No prescription drug is specifically approved for autism, notes the Parent Herald, and any medication used for autistic children needs more research to determine its effectiveness.

At the present, there are more than 177,000 Michigan citizens approved for medical marijuana, but only 197 are minors. Proponents hope that a favorable vote will make it easier for children to be treated for conditions like seizures for whom sometimes marijuana is the best treatment available.

Dwight Zahringer, who has an autistic son, said:

One of the drugs they recommended we give to him, one of the side effects is stroke. I'm going to give this to my 3 year old?

In 2012 a mother of an autistic child petitioned for the inclusion of autism, but the panel voted 7-2 against it, stating that there wasn't enough peer-reviewed research. As it turns out, state officials had omitted hundreds of pages of information from the packet they supplied to the panel. Some are viewing this as an intentional obstruction, but LARA spokesman Michael Loepp said that the information they were supposed to provide was given to the panel.

David Brogren, 61, is a retired insurance agent who treats his multiple sclerosis with cannabis. He said:

I became aware several weeks ago that we hadn't received a huge number of documents, maybe six or eight hundred pages.

This May, a different mother petitioned with a better support system, including 19 family testimonies and physicians who gathered 75 peer-reviewed articles and more than 800 pages of research about connections and benefits.

Dr. Lester Grinspoon, a 40 year Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, said:

There is no question that the brain continues to develop until the early 20s, and we must be very careful as physicians about young brains' exposure. That being said, I do not worry at all about exposure to cannabis compared with the other pharmaceutical products used to treat autism.

Dr. Harry Chugani, Chief of Pediatric Neurology at Children's Hospital of Michigan, disagrees. He said:

The vast majority of kids with autism do not need pot, and I won't sign for it.

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