THE BLOG

"Hope" - Autism as a New Condition for the MMMA Program

06/30/2015 05:27 pm ET | Updated Jun 30, 2016

"Hope is the thing with feathers 
That perches in the soul 
And sings the tune without the words 
And never stops at all." 
― Emily Dickinson

"You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore." 
― William Faulkner

"We dream to give ourselves hope. To stop dreaming - well, that's like saying you can never change your fate." 
― Amy Tan, The Hundred Secret Senses

Hope keeps us going; hope is important. It is remaining in the game, believing that things will be OK, and not giving up.

It is getting to the end of the road, having nowhere to go, and instead of quitting, continuing to fight to figure it out, to stay present and mindful, and not give up.

Hope is important. Without hope people have nothing.

A new, thoroughly researched petition to add autism to the list of conditions which can be treated with medical marijuana will be heard by the Michigan Medical Marihuana Review Panel on July 20, 2015 at 9:30 am at 611 W. Ottawa in Lansing. LARA originally refused to hear the new petition, citing the denial of two previously submitted petitions for autism. The previously submitted petitions provided limited science and research in support, and resulted in a "no" vote. This new petition was accompanied by over 75 peer review articles and over 800 pages of research on the issue of cannabis as a viable option for the treatment of autism.

Despite what can only be described as overwhelming evidence, LARA, the agency tasked with addressing petitions for new conditions, refused to hold a hearing or even consider the petition. This "dead-end" and unjust position seemingly demanded that myself and Attorney Tim Knowlton, the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association, and Cannabis Patients United sue LARA in the Ingham County Court. It was only after nearly a year of litigation and foot dragging that LARA ceded its position. Attorney General Bill Schuette's office "defended" LARA's position by delaying for months, only yielding after the petitioner filed her brief with the court, days before oral arguments.

Unfortunately it seems the lives of children and parents hang in the balance of a possibly disinterested and dysfunctional process controlled by LARA.

But now that we are here, and now that there is a debate, the science is overwhelming. Let's not get caught up or distracted from the real issue: autism is a terrible disease with no cure and no proven safe treatments and this is a problem. We could lie to ourselves and say that no evidence exists documenting the effects of cannabis as medicine, but we know this is not true. Testimony was given by parents and physicians, and 75 scientific studies documenting cannabis safety and efficacy in treating autism have now been provided to the panel for their consideration in this decision. We also learned that telling a parent that there is no hope for their child does not work. The most compelling testimony during the May 27 public hearing was that, independent of how the new condition panels decides, parents dealing with this affliction will continue to do what they think is best for their child. This begs the question: shouldn't these parents not have to worry about being arrested considering everything else they have to deal with?

For pediatric and juvenile patients under the age of 18, two doctors would have to approve.

The growing rate of autism has just recently being identified as a significant public health issue, due to statistic provided by the Center for Disease Control's Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, a nationwide federal program to identify, estimate, and track and compare autism rates around the country.

Their estimates show an alarming trend: autism rates have risen in every report since tracking began in 2002, from 1 in 150 in 2002 to 1 in 68 in 2010.

In years past, I said people who opposed the medical use of cannabis have never experienced a friend, family member, or person who was suffering from a medical condition. But to oppose the treatment of autism for patients afflicted with the disease is inhumane. To let the status quo remain and subject parents and the physicians who treat these children with exposure to arrest and criminal charges is a deplorable policy for the benefit and welfare of the public health for the citizens of Michigan. There is overwhelming scientific and medical evidence supporting the approval of the petition. There is probably more research supporting the use of cannabis as a treatment for autism than all of the research to support the other ten conditions currently on the registry.

It is important to be mindful of an often overlooked aspect of the MMMA: that its purpose is to protect the serious ill persons who have been recommended to use cannabis with a doctor's (in this case two doctors) recommendation and a bona fide relationship, from arrest and prosecution.

(b) Data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Reports and the Compendium of Federal Justice Statistics show that approximately 99 out of every 100 marihuana arrests in the United States are made under state law, rather than under federal law. Consequently, changing state law will have the practical effect of protecting from arrest the vast majority of seriously ill people who have a medical need to use marihuana. - Section 2 of the MMMA

There should be no debate that those afflicted with autism are seriously ill, and the purpose of our law, and the compassion shown by Michigan voters in approval, was to protect parents, patients, and physicians. For the panel to not recommend that autism be approved as a condition of the program is to ignore their duty and responsibility.

Additionally they should be mindful that the standard by which they are held, to a recommend or not recommend as outlined by LARA's own administrative rules, already requires that the condition in question be a debilitating condition:

R 333.131 Review panel for reviewing petitions for additional medical conditions or treatments; terms.
Rule 31. (1) The department shall appoint a panel of not more than 15 members to review petitions to add medical conditions or treatments to the list of debilitating medical conditions under section 3(b) of the act, MCL 333.26423(b), and to address the palliative and therapeutic benefits that use of medical marihuana will provide for the medical condition or the treatment of the medical conditions. The panel shall meet at least twice each year and shall review and make a recommendation to the department concerning any petitions that have been submitted that meet the requirements of R 333.133(1).

All too often the issues regarding medical marihuana and marihuana in general are politicized. Even at times using the propagandist's favorite imagery of protecting the children. Well this issue is really about the children, and the only thing that should be considered is that there is overwhelming evidence that cannabis can provide a safe alternative to the traditional medications and treatments currently used for those afflicted with cannabis, and parents and doctors live in fear of criminal liability.

But more importantly, think about any parent that is at the end of the road with traditional treatments, when the physician has no alternative and there is absolutely no likelihood of anything changing for their child, wouldn't we want that parent to have these choices, and who are we to say otherwise?

What would a parent do for their child? is really the question. It the answer is anything, as the testimony presented to the panel indicates, then it is clear parents will continue to treat their children; they will not stop. If it works for their children, the question is, do we want the parents arrested?

It is called hope and every red blooded American is entitled to have it.

Hope is needed here. Protect the children, do not let them or their parents get arrested for treating autism with cannabis.