Marijuana plants (MLive.com File Photo)
Aug 28, 2015
MLive - LANSING, MI — A Michigan official has rejected a citizen petition and review panel recommendation to add autism to the list of conditions that qualify patients for medical marijuana use under state law.
Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Director Mike Zimmer, in a final determination released Thursday, cited a "concerning" lack of scientific evidence regarding medical marijuana use by autistic patients, specifically by children.
"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, several troubling concerns remain," he wrote.
Michael Komorn, an attorney representing Lisa Smith, the Michigan mom who filed the autism petition, said supporters had submitted "overwhelming research" and peer-reviewed articles to make their case. He likened Zimmer's determination to "reefer madness," suggesting the department director did not understand the science himself.
"It's a real disservice to all those parents who were hopeful that they could be protected to treat their children with autism," Komorn said.
The Medical Marijuana Law Review Panel, in a 4-2 vote last month, recommended approval of the petition brought by Smith, who has said cannabis oil helped improve the behavior, sleep and eating schedule of her severely autistic 6-year-old son.
"The parents I've talked to are passionate and adamant that this represents a dramatic improvement in the quality of life for them and their affected children," David Crocker, a medical marijuana doctor and panel member, had said before the vote.
The two dissenting members, including Chief Medical Executive Eden Wells, had expressed concern over the effect of marijuana on the developing brain
, which they said could outweigh the potential benefits for autistic children.
Zimmer, in his final determination, noted that the petition was not limited to severe cases of autism, which he said made the dearth of clinical studies especially concerning.
Zimmer also questioned whether marijuana-derived oil that parents described using during public testimony is currently legal under Michigan's voter-approved medical law. A 2013 Court of Appeals ruling put limits on permissible forms of "usable marijuana," and clarifying legislation has not yet advanced in the Legislature.
The medical marijuana panel, whose members are appointed by LARA, were provided with public testimony and submitted research before voting to approve the autism petition. But Zimmer, who has final say in the process, denied the panel's recommendation.
"I'm disappointed and I'm frustrated. I think that obviously he used a lot of words to explain an inconsistent and subjective decision in opposing the panel's recommendation," said Komorn.
The goal of the petition was to extend legal protections of the medical marijuana law to parents who want to treat their autistic children, he said.
The medical marijuana review panel rejected a similar autism petition in 2013 in what had been called a final decision. Smith's petition was initially denied upon submission by LARA, but she successfully sued to force reconsideration.
Only one treatable condition has been added to Michigan's medical marijuana law since voter approval in 2008. The panel, which was previously disbanded and reformed because members had not been appointed properly, voted to add Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder last year.