Three years ago, the mother of an autistic child petitioned Michigan’s Department of Licensing & Regulatory Affairs (LARA), the board that oversees medical marijuana regulation, to add autism as a one of the state’s qualifying conditions for recommending medical marijuana. The addition was voted down 7-2 by the board, citing a lack of scientific evidence.

Now Michigan patients and their families are rallying to give LARA another go round on the autism issue, this time with enough scientific evidence and testimony to choke a horse. The board will make their decision on July 31. In the meantime, they have an 800 page document of research and peer-reviewed articles detailing how the brain’s endocannabinoid system gives unique access to the symptoms of autism.

The new campaign’s figurehead is Dr. Christian Bogner, a physician at the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine in Michigan and father of a child with autism, one of many doctors fighting to make sure treating a child or loved for autism by safely using cannabis is not an alternative reserved for criminals.

Bogner wrote recently on the issue: “1 in 68 kids [is] diagnosed with autism in the US. There [are] no effective treatments that are readily available. About 3.5 million Americans are affected […and each] year the incidence raises 10%. It is a 236 billion dollar problem in this country per year, [and in] 10 years it will be [a] 400 billion [dollar problem].”

Upping the pedigree even higher is Dr. Lester Grinspoon, who’s not a character in a trag-comic novel, but a Professor Emeritus at Harvard Psychiatry. Grinspoon argues that, “Marijuana is the drug of choice these days for symptomatic treatment of autism. If I had an autistic child, I’d be right there with these parents figuring out his strain and dosage.”

Though there are risks involved in administering cannabis to children and adolescents with developing brains, the distinguished doctor argues that the same can be said of other common medicines. “There is no question that the brain continues to develop until the early 20s, and we must be very careful as physicians about young brains’ exposure. That being said, I do not worry at all about exposure to cannabis compared with the other pharmaceutical products used to treat autism.”

Hopefully, old Grinny and Bogner will pull this affair off and soon autism will be added to the list kept by the state’s oddly spelled bureaucratic entity called the Michigan Medical Marihuana Registry Program. Anyone who wants to help can sign the movement’s online petition here.


Photo via Flickr user Dr. Brainfish