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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Marijuana and Autism

In The Politics of Autism, I write:
The conventional wisdom is that any kind of treatment is likely to be less effective as the child gets older, so parents of autistic children usually believe that they are working against the clock. They will not be satisfied with the ambiguities surrounding ABA, nor will they want to wait for some future research finding that might slightly increase its effectiveness. They want results now. Because there are no scientifically-validated drugs for the core symptoms of autism, they look outside the boundaries of mainstream medicine and FDA approval. Studies have found that anywhere from 28 to 54 percent of autistic children receive “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM), and these numbers probably understate CAM usage.
Marijuana is one controversial example of CAM.

At the Riverside Press-Enterprise, Tom Sheridan reports on the Cannabis for Autism conference that took place last Saturday in Rancho Cucamonga, California.
The keynote presentation at the conference was delivered via Skype by Dr. Lester Grinspoon, associate professor emeritus of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
Grinspoon is the author of several cannabis-related books including “Marihuana Reconsidered,” published in 1971.
Grinspoon conceded that he thought marijuana, or cannabis, was “dangerous” until he started to research it. He, too, had a personal connection to the drug’s apparent therapeutic qualities. In the 1960s, when his son was undergoing chemotherapy treatments, he witnessed first-hand evidence that cannabis helped his son deal with the disabling nausea caused by the chemo.
“My conclusion was it was a remarkably non-toxic medicine,” Grinspoon said.
The conference comes as many in the United States are examining their views on cannabis. Three states have legalized marijuana for recreational use, and nearly half the states plus Washington, D.C., allow medical marijuana.
But the U.S. government continues to list marijuana as a Schedule I drug, a classification reserved for drugs that have no medical use and high potential for abuse. Heroin and LSD are other Schedule I drugs.
Another speaker at the conference, Thalia Michelle, executive director of Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism (MAMMA), is the parent of an autistic child.
In her presentation, Michelle made the case that states should list autism as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana.
WSB-TV in Atlanta reports:
The mother of an autistic child went before Georgia lawmakers Monday, admitting she broke the law to get relief for her daughter.
Channel 2’s Lori Geary sat in on the first hearing of Georgia’s new medical marijuana bill that would allow the growing of medical marijuana in Georgia and expand the number of conditions patients need to qualify, including Alzheimer’s disease and autism.

Jennifer Conforti testified that she gets marijuana on the black market and turns it into cannabis oil for her 5-year-old daughter.
State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, is considered the godfather of the medical marijuana movement in Georgia.
“It’s time to quit making criminals out of parents and citizens who only want to provide medicine for their sick children and for themselves," Peake told Geary.

At CNHI News Service, John Finnerty reports:
Debate over medical marijuana in Pennsylvania has been a slog, say advocates who are still working to overcome the skepticism of lawmakers who don't want to be seen as soft on drugs.
Pennsylvania is one of a dozen states with no form of legalized medical marijuana. Supporters say that could soon change, as surveys of lawmakers indicate that it could pass.
They just need Republicans in the House to bring it up for a vote.
“That’s my biggest beef,” said Lolly Bentch, who lives near Harrisburg and leads Campaign for Compassion, a group of moms who've been lobbying to legalize medical marijuana in Pennsylvania.
Hunter Clauss and Kristen Thometz report at WTTW in Chicago:
Gov. Bruce Rauner has a week to decide whether to expand the state's medical marijuana pilot program, which some observers worry could be in danger of flaming out. So far the program only covers a limited number of serious illnesses and has 4,000 registered patients.

The state's Medical Cannabis Advisory Board wants the governor to add eight new medical conditions to the program. They include chronic pain caused by trauma, autism and PTSD. But it's not clear whether Rauner will sign off on the move after he punted on adding more conditions to the program last year.