Autism isn't on the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana in Colorado, but that could soon change. A bill that would place autism on the list of eligible conditions for treatment with medical marijuana is on its way to a second hearing in the Colorado Statehouse, according to NBC affiliate 9news. Last week the bill was voted through by the House Health Insurance and Environment Committee 12–1.
Parents like Michelle Walker who have children with autism say medical marijuana has the potential to improve not only the quality of their children's lives but the wellbeing of the family as a whole. Walker says that before taking medical marijuana to treat seizures, her son Vincent would have violent outbursts that stem from autism.
"He would attack us every day. He would hit and kick, choke me, pull my hair - and it was beyond his control," Walker told 9news.
Those outbursts ceased once he began taking cannabis extracts. But now that he is no longer having seizures, he won't be given medicinal cannabis anymore, which means the physical attacks will likely resume - unless the state legislature approves cannabis as a treatment for autism.
"Our son is seizure-free for the first time ever, but that also comes with consequences that he may not qualify for medical cannabis next year," Walker said. "To know that our son would have access to medical cannabis even though he's seizure-free would be comforting and give us a peace of mind that we don't have right now."
But not everyone's onboard with the bill. The legislation has been met with strong opposition from a number of medical organizations: The American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Emergency Physicians, Children's Hospital Colorado, Colorado Academy of Family Physicians and Colorado Psychiatric Society and others.
"As physicians, we empathize with Coloradans searching for complementary and alternative treatments for relief from the symptoms of autism spectrum disorder," Colorado Psychiatric Society wrote in a statement. "We fully support research to determine the viability, benefits and risks of cannabis products as a treatment modality, but we do not currently have any studies that meet the medical standards for establishing safety and efficacy for children and youth with autism spectrum disorder."
But for parents like Michelle Walker, all the proof they need is the difference cannabis makes for their children.