Michigan Rejects Adding Autism to Qualifying Conditions

Autism will not be added to Michigan’s list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. Although there has been a growing movement of parents campaigning for the condition to be added, the decision ultimately rested with Mike Zimmer, director of the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, who denied the petition.

In a final determination released on Aug. 27, 2015, Zimmer detailed his decision, noting insufficient medical evidence as one of the primary reasons for denying the petition.

“While the record is replete with sincere and well-articulated testimony on the potential benefits of medical marihuana to autism patients and, in particular, parents of autistic children,” wrote Zimmer, “several troubling concerns remain.”

Zimmer cited several medical professionals as well as the Director of the Michigan Autism Alliance, all of whom share the opinion that not enough is known about marijuana’s effect on children, particularly those with autism.

Although there has been some evidence to indicate that marijuana can help children with autism, Zimmer contended that in those particular cases most of the children were also being treated for epilepsy, which is a covered qualifying condition in Michigan. Since those special cases can already access medical marijuana, Zimmer did not take those accounts into consideration.

Another factor that played into Zimmer’s decision was the scope of the petition. Although severe autism is mentioned several times, the petitioners sought to have autism added without limitations, meaning that anyone on the autism spectrum could get a prescription to medical marijuana.

Zimmer noted that “… there are only 55 minors currently in the Michigan Medical Marijuana Program,” and that the petition fails to take into account the impact that adding general autism would have on the system as a whole as well as the minor population.

In the United States, approximately one in 68 children have autism. According to the U.S. Census, there are approximately 2.3 million children living in Michigan. That means if autism was added as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana, nearly 34,000 children could potentially qualify for the medical marijuana system.

Naturally, the advocates and parents that fought hard to bring this issue forward were disappointed. Michael Komorn, the attorney representing a mother who filed the autism petition, told Michigan Live that the decision was a “disservice” to the parents hoping to treat their children.

“I’m disappointed and I’m frustrated,” Komorn said. “I think that obviously he used a lot of words to explain an inconsistent and subjective decision in opposing the panel’s recommendation.”

This is not the first time autism was rejected as a qualifying condition. In 2013, the Michigan Medical Marijuana Review Panel rejected a similar petition.

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