A bill which would allow people with autism in Colorado with autism to access medical marijuana has made its way past its first hurdle.
The bill would see autism spectrum disorder added to the list of medical conditions which qualify patients to utilize a medical marijuana card with their doctor’s recommendation. The bill was sponsored by state Reps: Kim Ransom, a Littleton Republican and Edie Hooton, a Boulder Democrat.
Neither of the two sponsors has a child with autism, but both raised concerns on behalf of families and parents when the bill was introduced. “What compels me to bring this bill to you is the suffering these families endure,” Hooton said.
“For me, this is a parents’ rights issue,” Ransom said. The first step for the bill was passing the health committee which it did 10-1. The bill would also allow parents to seek a medical marijuana card with only the sign off two doctors rather than a primary care pediatrician, physician, or psychiatrist.
The only person that opposed the bill in the health committee was state Rep. Yadira Caraveo. They voted no and lobbied for the signature of at least one primary care physician before a medical marijuana card would be granted. “My primary concern is these decisions are being driven outside the medical home,” Caraveo said.
However, this isn’t the first time a similar bill has been proposed. Only last year a bill was passed, but then vetoed by the then-Gov — John Hickenlooper who cited concerns from different medical professionals. The hearing for the new bill stretched long into the night with an emotional testimonial from families.
Margaret Terlaje, whose son has autism, was often left drooling after taking autism medication prescribed by her doctor, before switching to medical marijuana. “He will always live with me, and I will always take care of him,” she said. “He’s a very special boy.”
Not everyone is as excited about medical marijuana with many people in the state’s medical community raising concerns about the lack of research into the effects of marijuana on young children. “We don’t have enough evidence right now,” said Dr. David Downs, a former president of the Colorado Medical Society.
Other opponents, including Jeff Hunt, executive director of the conservative Centennial Institute, urged caution. “We’re experimenting,” Hunt said. “It should be done in the confines of the FDA … not the general population.” As with any new medicine or medical procedure, there is always going to be some in the community who are cautious.
Melissa Atchley, another one of the mothers who testified during the proposal of the bill, said that she didn’t care about a lack of medical evidence. “As a mom, I want my child to stop beating his head against a wall,” she said.
Colorado isn’t just sitting and waiting for someone to do the research on medical marijuana for them. They are taking a proactive approach and studying the effects of medical marijuana on autism. The study, which is being paid for by marijuana tax dollars, was commissioned by Hickenlooper after he vetoed last year’s version of the bill.