After a long push, autism is finally being added to the list of qualifying conditions allowed to access medical marijuana in the state of Colorado. The state is one of the most progressive on the cannabis front – having been the first to legalize recreational use – and they have never abandoned the mission to expand access and amend their medical marijuana laws as we learn more about the plant.
Last year, a bill with the same goal was vetoed by former Governor John Hickenlooper, citing the need for more research and evidence and commissioning a study at the expense of marijuana tax revenue. This year, House Bill 1028 passed through the Health Committee with a vote of 10-1, the House voted unanimously, followed by the Senate with a 31-4 vote – and on World Autism Day, it was signed into law by Governor Jared Polis.
“It’s National Autism Day today, and we are acting by expanding patients’ access to cannabis products that help those with autism,” Polis told a crowd in his office before signing the bill. “We know that not just anecdotally, but with a mounting amount of good scientific data that is coming in.”
In order to qualify for medical marijuana, patients will need to be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder by a primary care physician, a physician with experience in ASD or a licensed mental health provider. All patients under 18 – which is a large number of autism patients – will need two doctors to sign off before parents can access medical marijuana for them, but the option is finally there.
“They came to us because they needed relief from the severe symptoms from autism, and they were not able to make progress at the executive level,” said Representative Edie Hooton. “I can speak on behalf of my fellow co-sponsors: This is just a victory for these families. It’s such a privilege and honor to really make a difference for families with children who are suffering from autism spectrum disorder.”
Parents have been asking for this for a long time now – and after the soul-crushing veto last year, this is certainly a victory in the eyes of many families. Studies have continuously found that cannabis is often far more effective than traditional therapies and medications used in the treatment of autism spectrum disorder. Many states are including it in their medical marijuana laws, so it’s good to see a state like Colorado – that has an established medical marijuana program – continuing to expand to meet the needs of patients who weren’t originally included.