Autism could soon be added to the list of qualifying medical conditions eligible to be treated with medical marijuana in Colorado.
HB 1028 would enable children under the age of 18 with autism to be treated with medical cannabis, provided they have the approval of two physicians. However, the bill would eliminate the current requirement of a diagnosis from a primary care pediatrician, family physician, or psychiatrist.
Recent research suggests that cannabis can be therapeutically beneficial in treating symptoms of autism, including epileptic seizures, rage attacks, tics, and restlessness. A study published in the journal Nature on January 17, “Real life Experience of Medical Cannabis Treatment in Autism: Analysis of Safety and Efficacy,” found that “cannabis in ASD (autism spectrum disorder) patients appears to be well tolerated, safe and effective option to relieve symptoms associated with ASD.”
Exactly why cannabis is effective at treating patients with autism isn’t clear, though it may have to do with helping to regulate the endocannabinoid system. The study also found that patients treated with THC saw improvements in interpersonal communication and anxiety levels as well as a reduction in nocturnal motor activity, violence, behavioral and severity of behavioral disorders.” The study found that treatment with CBD could also lead to an improvement of behavioral symptoms.
The authors of the study caution that this was an observational study with no control group, and that further research is needed.
In November, the Colorado Department of Health and Environment awarded $1.35 million to the Colorado Children’s Hospital for a three-year study on how CBD affects children and adolescents with autism.
However, many parents with children who have severe autism symptoms don’t need to wait for more research to tell them what they anecdotally know: medical cannabis is a safe, effective treatment. Jamie Gomez, who has a 3-year-old son with severe autism, testified at the health committee hearing. She told CBS4, “We have already tried multiple medications that have not worked for him.”
HB 1028 passed the health committee 10-1 and will now head to the House floor for debate. Jared Polis, the new governor of Colorado, has indicated that he would sign the bill into law. Last year, a similar bill was vetoed by then Governor John Hickenlooper.
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