Autism And Medical Marijuana: Michigan's Big Maybe


Pain and nausea are never a good thing, unless your child has autism and you live in Michigan.

autism cannabis marijuana

Michigan's six-year old medical marijuana law does not allow doctors to recommend it for patients suffering from autism, but you can receive a recommendation for the chronic pain and nausea associated with the disease. Lisa Smith wants to change that, and today she got her chance to plead her case.

Her little son Noah depends on the marijuana medicines for his well-being and his life.


Noah suffers from seizures as a result of epilepsy, and his recommendation for medical marijuana use is based on that condition. His success with cannabis-based medications has been discussed in the legislature, on the pages of High Times magazine and in numerous newspaper stories.

Michigan's law allows for a physician to recommend marijuana for the treatment of both illnesses and symptoms of illness or medical treatment. Along with a list of named illnesses, like cancer, the Act allows Michigan doctors to recommend the medicinal use of marijuana for chronic pain or nausea.

Nausea is a consequence of chemotherapy, illness and even prescription drugs. Chronic pain has so many causes, injury and illness among them.

Lisa Smith's son has many ailments, including autism. Even though autism is not specifically mentioned in the Act she found two physicians who would recommend marijuana for her child on the basis of his epilepsy.

"Thank God they did," Smith told the legislature recently.

On May 27 in Lansing a panel of mostly physicians heard arguments outlined by Lisa Smith, her attorneys and supporters on the reasons why autism should be added to the list of qualifying conditions allowing the medicinal use of marijuana in Michigan.

This is the second attempt at adding autism to the language of the Act. Autism was rejected in an earlier petition.

"This petition has the best chance of success," said attorney Michael Komorn. "It is well-written, detailed and complete."

Adding conditions to the Act is a difficult process, made even more difficult by new rules imposed by LARA over the objections of citizens and Senators. The changes, which were rejected by the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules in 2014, became part of Michigan's medical marijuana rules in January 2015.


Conversation has swirled around Lansing's Capitol Building for several years about reducing the number of registered patients (120,000) and caregivers (25,000) in Michigan, and one of the frequently cited ways they could do this is through the elimination of symptoms as a qualifying condition.

LARA has taken two steps toward accomplishing this goal already.

The applications and the annual reports have both been altered by the current administration, in a way that accents the number of registrants using chronic pain and nausea to qualify for their medical marijuana card.

Applications were changed to require physicians to check off the qualifying conditions and symptoms for each patient, instead of letting physicians list out the conditions as they do on other legally-required medical forms. Now ailments are offered in one area and symptoms are offered in another. It makes it easy to identify which applicants are AIDS patients, or chronic pain suffers, which leaves doubt as to the purity of the approval process.

In the past, the annual report prepared by LARA detailing the Act's expenses and level of participation listed the number of registrants per qualifying condition. As of FY 2013, LARA's reports offer these statistics not as numbers but as percentages, presumably to accentuate the number of doctors reporting their patient has chronic pain. The percentages add up to more than 100, which is never a good thing when dealing with statistics, prompting LARA to explain that doctors list multiple conditions on the applications and their paperwork processors now list each and every one in the database.

It was so much easier when they just presented numbers.

The Michigan State Police highlighted the issue during their presentation delivered to Rep. Klint Kesto's House Judiciary Committee by featuring a slide showing the breakdown by illness or symptom of Michigan's registrants.

Even that document had to be delivered with a disclaimer. When the percentages offered add up to more than 100%, legislators can figure out the data is being packaged for a purpose that is more political and less scientific.

Source: The Compassion Chronicles