Wednesday marked the first step in getting Louisiana children living with autism access to medical marijuana. A committee of Louisiana lawmakers passed an expansion of state medical marijuana law that broadens who will have access to cannabis treatment. This could mean that this state will soon allow medical marijuana for autistic children.
The expanded bill for autistic children
Almost two years ago, Louisiana legalized medical marijuana, though has been slow to act on its marijuana legislation. The law qualifies people with serious conditions such as epilepsy, cancer, Crohn’s disease and other illnesses for cannabis, as recommended by a doctor. This list did not originally include autism treatment for children. On Wednesday, March 28, a committee composed of members of the Louisiana House of Representatives approved an expansion to Senate Bill 271 that will make autistic children eligible for medical marijuana treatment.
However, not everyone will autism will automatically qualify. A pediatrician will need to approve and observe any child with autism on medical marijuana. The House committee voted 9 to 4 in favor of the bill. This is only the first step in permanently adding this expansion to the original medical marijuana legislation. Next, the entire Louisiana House of Representatives will vote on whether to make it law.
Many opposed this legislation
The committee heard from many who felt strongly about whether this state will soon allow medical marijuana for autistic children.
Those against this legislation include Republican Representative Dodie Horton who asked those in favor, “If the FDA hasn’t approved this for treatment, who are we? Why are you qualified?” Others raised similar concerns about FDA regulations.
The committee also heard from prominent members of the medical community who were not in favor. Dr. John Vanchierre, head of the Louisiana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, argued, “Allowing medical marijuana to be used, without FDA standards, is not appropriate. This is a safety issue.”
In his testimony, Dr. Vanchierre asserted the need for more research on the effects of marijuana on children, specifically on brain development.
Many have shown their support for the bill
Political forces behind the bill included Democratic Representative Rodney Lyons. He argued, “Autism can cause a burden and there are few treatment options. And the one out there has horrible side effects.”
Many people with debilitating illness turn to cannabis for more side-effect free treatment. The parents who have used marijuana to treat their children with autism often report its immediate beneficial effects.
Mieko Hester-Perez tested over 13 treatments for autism for her son, Joey. Only after consuming a medical marijuana brownie did Joey regain his appetite, become less anxious and start attempting to communicate. Now, Hester-Perez is one of the parents advocating for cannabis as a treatment for autism in California.
Dr. James Smith, who specializes in cardiology, testified in front of the committee in favor of treating autistic children with medical marijuana. “Cannabis is a safe medicine,” Dr. Smith explained, “900 people died last year from acetaminophen. None from cannabis.”