Autism spectrum disorder could be added to Colorado's list of conditions treatable with medical marijuana if Governor John Hickenlooper approves a bill that passed the General Assembly on May 4. HB 1263, introduced by Representative Edie Hooton, went through the legislature with relative ease after it was introduced in March, but not without changes.
As originally drafted by Hooton, the bill was designed to add acute pain to the state's list of medical marijuana conditions in hopes of combating opioid addiction. Before its introduction, however, she was approached by mothers and advocates of children suffering from ASD. Persuaded by their stories and studies taking place in Israel and Chile on marijuana benefits for ASD, Hooton added the condition to her bill...and it soon proved the most winning component.
Early on, House committee members told Hooton they wouldn't vote for the bill if acute pain stayed part of the proposal. Hooton complied with their request and removed that provision. After that, the bill moved through the legislature relatively uncontested, passing its final Senate and House readings 32-3 and 53-11, respectively. But since Hickenlooper's office hasn't taken an official stance on the measure, advocates aren't calling it a victory just yet.
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"The fight isn’t over. Now we’re headed to the governor’s desk. Governor John W. Hickenlooper has shown great compassion to our children and the special needs community this session by signing some amazing legislation," Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism's Michelle Walker declared on social media after the final House reading. "I know that he is committed to helping our kids, and I wholeheartedly believe he will continue to do everything he can to help them."
Walker, who shared her story with Westword shortly after the bill was introduced in March, testified, along with dozens of mothers with children suffering from ASD, at the Capitol about the benefits of whole-plant cannabis oil, telling lawmakers how it helped their children curb their aggressive behavior and cognitive disabilities brought on by ASD.
The bill met with early opposition from the Colorado Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Society, Colorado Psychiatric Society, Children's Hospital Colorado and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment chief medical officer Dr. Larry Wolk. Most of their objections were tied to lack of clinical research on the subject, but Wolk also objected to using the Colorado Legislature to circumvent the CDPHE petitioning process already in place to add medical marijuana conditions.
The CDPHE hasn't added a medical marijuana condition to the list since its creation in 2002, however, and legislators stopped waiting on that process last year, when a House bill passed that added post-traumatic stress disorder to conditions eligible for medical marijuana. Hickenlooper signed that bill into law.