Recent biotechnology research now supports the use of medical marijuana in the treatment of a wide range of conditions and illnesses, from certain types of cancer to epilepsy and anxiety and depression. Yesterday, the use of medical marijuana in the treatment of individuals affected by autism spectrum disorder easily passed the first stage of the process that could see it legalised in the state of Colorado.
The bill that proposes new legislation meaning doctors would be legally able to recommend a medical marijuana prescription to anyone, including children, suffering from symptoms related to a diagnosis of being on the autism spectrum. Five hours of debate among Colorado’s state House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee, including testimony offered by those affected by autism, and the parents of children diagnosed as on the spectrum, resulted in a 12-1 vote in favour of the bill progressing to the next stage of its approval process. However, there is still a long way to go before any new legislation might be approved into state law. Yesterday’s hearing and vote was only the first of several stages the bill must get through.
If the bill were to pass into legislation in its present form, it would mean that medical marijuana could be recommended in the treatment of minors as well as adults by the state’s doctors. Colorado has one of the most liberal legislative frameworks around both medical marijuana, and the consumption of the drug recreationally, in the world. Almost 100,000 people who live in the state have active medical marijuana cards and over 300 of them are under the age of 18.
Colorado was one of the first US states to legalise medical marijuana, with limited use permitted since 2010. In the past, before many other states moved to take the same approach, there were many more minors resident in Colorado with medical marijuana cards. Families with children suffering from epilepsy moved to the state in significant numbers to allow them to be legally prescribed medical marijuana to help alleviate the condition.
One major obstacle the bill will face is a current lack of research around the potential benefits of medical marijuana in the treatment of autism. The bulk of the evidence is still anecdotal. However, a study is currently underway at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in partnership with Australian biotech company Zelda Therapeutics, which is funding the research. It is the first of its kind in the USA and will consist of an observational study of patients whose parents are self-medicating using medical marijuana and will not involve the hospital providing any cannabis products.