LANSING (AP) – Michigan would become the first state to allow medical marijuana for children with severe autism if a senior official follows the recommendation made Friday by an advisory panel.
The state’s Medical Marijuana Review Panel voted 4-2 to recommend autism as a condition that qualifies for the drug.
Supporters say oil extracted from marijuana and swallowed has been effective in controlling extreme physical behavior by kids with severe autism. Pot wouldn’t be smoked.
The panel was influenced by comments received earlier from some Detroit-area doctors, especially the head of pediatric neurology at Children’s Hospital of Michigan, and parents desperate for relief. Many of the three dozen spectators cheered and applauded after the vote.
The recommendation now goes to Mike Zimmer, the director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, who has until late October to make a final decision.
A 3-year-old boy, Brunello Zahringer, ran around and squealed as the panel discussed the issue. He wore a shirt that said, “Keep calm it’s only autism” on the front, and “Let my daddy decide!” on the back, a reference to the use of marijuana oil.
“I wanted them to see what autism is, what I live with, what my wife lives with,” the boy’s father, Dwight Zahringer of Clinton Township, said later. “I’m not trying to sell this on the street. I’m trying to look for a correct way to complement all the treatments we’re getting.”
Michael Komorn, a lawyer who filed the petition on behalf of a mother in southeastern Michigan, said no other state allows medical marijuana for severe autism.
Dr. David Crocker, a panel member who voted in favor of allowing it, noted that two doctors need to give their approval for a child to get a medical marijuana card from the state.
“We have a pretty good checks-and-balances system,” he said.
Michigan’s chief medical executive, Dr. Eden Wells, serves on the panel and voted no. She’s not convinced that there’s enough research on the topic, especially the long-term effects of marijuana on children.
“These things are things we do not know until we have enough experience with these medications in a controlled trial. … I don’t think we have those checks and balances,” Wells said.
Experts writing in the February edition of the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics cautioned that marijuana for kids with severe autism might serve only as a “last-line therapy.”
Only one condition, post-traumatic stress disorder, has been added to those that qualify since Michigan voters approved marijuana for the side effects of cancer and a few other illnesses in 2008.
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