Arizona law spells out about a dozen medical conditions that can qualify someone for a medical marijuana card. Autism isn't one of them.
On World Autism Awareness Day, a group of Valley moms went to the state capitol to press for changes that would allow children with autism to qualify for medical patient cards.
Currently, parents wishing to administer cannabis to their children must get them qualified on other medical conditions.
Brandy Williams got her son Logan qualified for a patient card because of his seizures. But she says a few drops of cannabis oil each day has dramatically improved his autism.
Before cannabis, she says Logan was non-verbal and prone to bashing his head dozens of times a day. Now, she said he's speaking, reading and attending school full-time.
To qualify for medical marijuana, patients must have a "debilitating medical condition" but Arizona law gives the Department of Health Services the final say, and there is skepticism among the medical community.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Autism Society don't support the use of cannabis to treat autism-related disorders, in part because of a lack of research on the topic.
"If autism isn't a debilitating condition, I don't know what is," said Williams, the president of Arizona Moms Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism.
Williams said four states list autism as a qualifying condition. Three other states, including California, allow doctors to prescribe medical marijuana as they see fit.
Erica Smith said anything has to be better than the traditional antipsychotic medication her 6-year-old autistic son tried.
"With that treatment, within 48 hours, our son became manic," she said. "Our son was trying to harm himself. He was jumping off furniture, running into walls."
She's getting ready to give her son Enoch marijuana for the first time, technically for his seizures, but she thinks other families with autism should have the same chance.
"There are so many people that we know are already on cannabis that they've seen tremendous results for their kids, and we just want to see that for our son as well," she said. "We just want him to be as comfortable in his own body as he can be."
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