Colorado Could Allow People — Including Kids — With Autism To Use Medical Marijuana

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In a clash of deeply felt testimony, parents in tears pleaded with Colorado lawmakers on Friday to pass a bill allowing their children with autism to use medical marijuana as a treatment.

“I’m begging you to approve this bill,” said Jamie Kropp, whose son, Kolt, has autism.

Psychiatrists and the head of the state Health Department, though, opposed writing such a permission into law, saying there isn’t enough evidence to know that cannabis would do more good than harm, even though they sympathize with the frustration families feel.

“There is no easy answer,” said Dr. Meghan Schott, a psychiatrist with Denver Health. “… But, unfortunately, marijuana is not the answer at this point because we don’t have any research that supports that marijuana will be effective in the long-term.”

At the end of more than five hours of testimony and debate, lawmakers on the state House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee approved the bill by a 12-1 vote, the first of several hurdles at the Capitol that it must clear  before becoming law.

The bill, House Bill 18-1263, would allow doctors to recommend marijuana as a treatment for symptoms suffered by anyone diagnosed on the autism spectrum. An initial provision in the bill that also would have qualified acute pain as a condition meriting cannabis was stripped out before the committee’s final vote.

Thursday’s hearing echoed numerous prior debates in recent years at the Capitol that pitted families with personal anecdotes of transformations brought about by cannabis against doctors worried by the lack of high-quality studies and unknown long-term effects.

Overall, more than 93,000 people in Colorado have active medical marijuana cards — 314 of those age 17 or younger, a decline from several years ago, when families with children who suffer from epilepsy poured into the state in a similar quest to help their children through marijuana.

A number of parents who testified, including Kropp, were among those families — as their children also suffer from other conditions that qualify them for medical marijuana. Those parents spoke of children whose fits of self-injuring violence had been calmed or who had begun to speak and read. They asked lawmakers to approve the bill to give more people with autism — and especially children — who don’t have other qualifying conditions a chance to try cannabis.

The bill next goes before the full House, where it will need two votes before heading to the state Senate.