Michigan Approves Medical Marijuana for Autism

marijuana for autism - boy with back to the camera sits next to a bright red heart pillow

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs has approved autism as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana. The Detroit News reported Monday that the Director of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Shelly Edgerton granted approval of marijuana for autism, as well as 10 other debilitating conditions.  

Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disorder that causes significant challenges with behavior, communication, and socialization. There is no known cure for autism and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 out of 68 children have autism spectrum disorder in the U.S. Several studies have shown that medical marijuana is an effective treatment for autism 

Marijuana for Autism

Dr. Adi Aran is the Director of Pediatric Neurology at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. By accident, he found that medical marijuana helped his severe pediatric autistic patients, while treating them for epilepsy.  

One-third of autistic children also have epilepsy and Dr. Aran noticed that his autistic epilepsy patients being treated with cannabidiol were having fewer behavioral problems, as well as better social skills. The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia is also conducting an observational medical marijuana study for kids with autism.  

Dr. David Crocker was on the Michigan Medical Marihuana Review Panel and said that he had also previously treated autistic children for other medical conditions that qualified for medical marijuana.  

Crocker said that nearly all of his autistic patients showed significant improvement while being treated with medical marijuana.

"You've never seen a happier parent than when they find something that works for their child, and they've already been through a litany of other things," he said 

Michigan Will Also Add 10 Other Conditions 

Michigan will also add several other conditions to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana, including arthritis, chronic pain, colitis, IBS, OCD, Parkinson's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, spinal cord injury, Tourette's syndrome, and ulcerative colitis.  

The 11 new additions will join the current list of conditions, which includes AIDS/HIV, ALS, Alzheimer's disease, cancer, glaucoma, hepatitis C, PTSD, Crohn's disease, and debilitating diseases resulting in cachexia, severe nausea, intractable pain, and seizures. 

The approvals were based on the recommendations of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Review Panel. The panel also recommended rejecting 11 other conditions for medical marijuana treatment. The conditions were anxiety, asthma, brain injuries, depression, diabetes, gastric ulcers, non-severe pain, non-chronic pain, organ transplants, panic attacks, and schizophrenia.  

Marijuana for autism was denied approval back in 2015 when it was rejected by the chair of the panel, Dr. Eden Wells. Dr. Wells said that he has changed his mind as a result of the amount of knowledge and experience available that was not just a few years ago. 

Conditions that were denied approval were not recommended by the panel because they lacked sufficient supporting research or were "overly broad." Edgerton released a statement, which said that changes in Michigan state law along with the progress of medical marijuana research were contributing factors in her decision.