The state of Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana last year and now they are preparing to finally start awarding licenses to businesses. With these first licenses expected to be awarded as soon as Tuesday, June 20, things are finally starting to come together to allow patients in-state access to the medicinal herb. Interestingly though, it’s not only patients who are waiting for the state to hand out licenses and get things moving.
Lehigh University is also patiently waiting to see what is going to happen so they can partner with a producer of medical cannabis to research the effects of such treatment on children with autism. Pennsylvania is one of the very few states that actually allow children with autism to access medical marijuana under their laws – and Lehigh University intends to take full advantage of that to create the first quantitative research on the subject.
The school already has a lot of experience working with children with autism through their Center for Promoting Research to Practice, having held annual workshops as well as symposiums about autism in the past. Now they hope to partner with Biotech Green, who is competing against 28 others for one of two licenses to grow medical cannabis that will be awarded in Williams Township.
The director of Biotech Green, Dr. Sue Sisley, is well known in the medical cannabis world for obtaining Drug Enforcement Administration approval for a medical marijuana trial for post-traumatic stress disorder. Sisley is also a member of a committee at Thomas Jefferson University’s Lambert Center for the Study of Medicinal Cannabis and Hemp and is known for her criticism of government-grown medical marijuana.
Taking note of the fact that parents are already using medical cannabis illegally, she believes it is time that patients can medicate without fear of being arrested. Bringing legitimacy to medical cannabis is certainly a priority, and this study aims to be yet another project that will involve Sisley’s expertise on the subject.
“Moms are certainly using this actively in the black market, and now it’s time to bring everything out and into the open.”
It was eight years ago, in 2009, that one mom brought the hope of medical cannabis for autism patients to light when she credited the herb to saving her son. Since then, Mieko Hester-Perez has advocated for medical cannabis and all patients’ rights to a safe and effective alternative. Since then, many other parents of children with autism spectrum disorder have come forward with stories of how their children have benefited from the use of cannabis – most often used in edibles.
While this anecdotal evidence is all positive and extremely encouraging, most states want to see more proof that medical marijuana has the potential to benefit these children before adding the condition to their list that qualifies a patient to use cannabis. As it stands, only two states consider autism specifically to be a qualifying condition, Pennsylvania and Delaware.
However, Delaware only allows it for self-injurious and aggressive patients. Only three other states, California, Oregon and Massachusetts, along with Washington, D.C. allow medical marijuana to be recommended for symptoms of the condition that are considered debilitating. This means that the cannabis therapy is not an option for patients with autism in the remaining states with medical marijuana laws on the books.
This study could lead to further clinical trials and studies that will likely lead to the eventual inclusion of autism on the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana in all states that allow it. Lehigh University is clearly dedicated to helping us better understand autism spectrum disorder, while also searching for the best course of treatment to give these patients the best quality of life possible.
Considering the state has decided to allow children with autism to qualify for medical cannabis, it gave them the perfect opportunity to partner up with a quality medical cannabis provider to get the best results possible. If Biotech Green is approved or a license, then having Dr. Sisley on board for the study is even more beneficial in the long run. Hopefully, this will give us more insight into how medical cannabis can help children with autism so that more patients can find the relief they need.
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