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Arizona Moms Fight State to Use Medical Marijuana for Autism

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Currently, only five states in the United States consider autism a condition that can be treated with medical marijuana. A group of mothers in Arizona that are a part of MAMMA, Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism, are taking their case to Arizona state officials for their second meeting to get autism on the list of qualifying conditions to be treated by marijuana. Back in May, the group met with ADHS officials for three days to discuss their petition.

The ADHS website states that nine medical conditions experience medical benefits and can be treated with medical marijuana, but autism is not included on this list. When members of MAMMA met with state officials, they were met with less than sympathetic ears.

The president of the Arizona chapter of MAMMA, Brandy Williams had this to say about the meeting:

“They said there are no clinical peer reviews trials that have been published on cannabis and autism, but the same can be said for every single thing that we currently have on [the state’s] list. And then when we brought that up, they said, ‘Well, our cannabis program was a voter initiative; the health department had no say in those conditions.’”

Autism is already a condition that qualifies for medical marijuana in the following states: Delaware, Georgia, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Minnesota. Marijuana can be recommended by a doctor in California, Massachusetts, DC, and Michigan. Williams saw the benefits of medical cannabis oil in her son when she got approval for it to treat his seizures.

“Within twenty minutes of his first dose, I saw it provide relief to my son. That night, he fell asleep naturally. From there, he said 180 words in the first two months, after being completely non-verbal. He’s making eye contact, can complete tasks, responds to things we say. He went to school this entire year, with only two minor incidents. And he’s now reading.” Williams said of the drug’s effect on her son.

Cannabis can provide a safer alternative to the typical antipsychotics used to treat severe autism in children. These medications can cause hallucinations and other severe side effects. In one such case, the eight-year-old child of Kayla Roussel, a newer member of MAMMA, experienced hallucinations that made him “scratch his face until he bled.”

Roussel also stated: “The state attorneys essentially called us liars.” She later recounted a state attorney belittling the group and their petition:

“He said, ‘You know this petition is too broad. I’m a little bit quirky and I wear glasses, does that mean I need cannabis?’ He basically painted this picture that most people on the autism spectrum are living normal lives and that this petition is way too broad, and that’s one of the reasons why they’re denying this.”
Williams had provided the state attorney with a study prior to this statement in the meeting, however, that found that 87% of people on the autism spectrum continue living with their parents for the remainder of their lives and most qualify for disability social security.

The recent meeting is a continuation of the first three-day session where they will finally hear parent testimony. MAMMA’s lawyer will also be cross-examining the doctors that have already testified on their findings in using marijuana as a treatment for autism. After the hearing concludes, the judge will decide within twenty days to either approve or decline MAMMA’s petition.

Kayla Roussel concluded: “The autism community needs help. There are so many families struggling with kids who are hurting themselves and us, the people they love most. I was in a headlock yesterday. If [my sons] have the medication they need, we can live a somewhat functional, typical life. It is terrifying to see a little kid beating the crap out of their mom.”

If the ADHS approves the petition, autism will be put on the list of conditions that can be treated using medical marijuana in Arizona, allowing children dealing with severe autism to have a safer alternative treatment to the antipsychotics that were previously all that was offered.

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