A pioneering study out of Pennsylvania will explore the effect of cannabis on children with autism.
Researchers from Lehigh University plan to partner with a potential grower in the Lehigh Valley to collect quantitative data on cannabis therapy for autism. Meanwhile, the state – one of the few to allow autistic children to be treated with cannabis – prepares to award its first licenses for the fledgling medical marijuana industry.
Lehigh Dean of Education Gary Sasso said that while the anecdotal evidence supporting the use of cannabis as a treatment for autism is certainly intriguing – particularly since cannabis seems to lack the side effects of commonly prescribed autism medications – the effect of the drug is largely unknown. That’s why studies like this one are so important, he said.
If cannabis proves to be safe for autistic children, “does it mitigate some of the major characteristics of autism — social reluctance, language [challenges] and other stereotypical behaviors they sometimes engage in?” he said. “We have that kind of expertise to do that.”
Lehigh plans to work with BioGreen Farms, one of the 28 growers competing for a license to grow cannabis in the Northeast region. BioGreen’s medical director, Dr. Sue Sisley, said she is eager to conduct observational studies on lab-tested cannabis and autism.
“Moms are certainly using this actively in the black market, and now it’s time to bring everything out and into the open,” she said. “It’s time to let sun shine in.”
The potential in cannabis as a treatment for autistic children garnered national attention after a Diane Sawyer interview in 2009 with California mother Mieko Hester-Perez, who said edibles helped save her son’s life.
The world’s first study on the effect of CBD treatment on autistic children launched by the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Israel – which includes 120 children with mild to severe autism – is set to conclude next year.