The list of conditions that qualify patients for medical marijuana use under specific state laws continues to be debated and remains a controversial point of interest across the United States. In Michigan, officials recently considered the benefits of using medical marijuana for patients diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Would using medical marijuana for individuals diagnosed with a spectrum disorder help? This question was hotly debated in Michigan and not all agreed with the outcome.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a disorder that can affect a persons neurological development to a varied degree. The disorder is considered a spectrum disorder because it affects each individual differently. ASD can cause an individual to have difficulties in verbal and nonverbal communication, social interaction and behavior. Although some individuals with ASD can excel in certain visual, music, art, or math skills, ASD is also associated with intellectual disability as well as difficulty with motor coordination, attention and physical health. Since ASD can affect a person in such a complex way, experts are still trying to determine best practice and methods for helping individuals with ASD. The use of medical marijuana is one practice that was recently debated in Michigan.
One mother in Michigan filed a petition which stated that supporters had submitted overwhelming research based evidence and peer reviewed articles that make the case to use medical marijuana on individuals diagnosed with autism. This mother, Lisa Smith, has reported that the use of cannabis oil helped to improve elements of her 6 year old son’s ASD condition. Smith relays that the cannabis oil improved the behavior, sleep and eating schedule for her son. Smith believes that medical marijuana helps her son, and can help others as well. Last month, the Medical Marijuana Review Panel voted 4-2 to recommend approval of the petition brought by Smith. It turns out however that this recommendation was not enough to convince a majority of voters to side with its use for individuals with autism spectrum disorder.
Although the use of medical marijuana was voted on and approved for use in Michigan by voters in 2008, officials there decided that using medical marijuana for patients with autism was not acceptable. Residents in Michigan were fighting to make Michigan the first state to approve the use of medical marijuana for individuals with autism, but a top state regulator decided to reject the state panel’s advice to allow medical marijuana as a treatment for individuals with autism. Efforts to approve medical marijuana had been in the works for several years in Michigan, but this most recent decision by Governor Rick Snyder’s top state regulator Mike Zimmer was a significant set-back. Zimmer was appointed in December as the director of the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs and he was worried that an approval would translate to abuse of medical marijuana. In the end, Zimmer felt that approving medical marijuana for patients with autism might ultimately do more harm than good.
Currently, no state in the U.S. has approved the use of cannabis for individuals with autism.