These tired eyes, which were filled with hope four short weeks ago, are now closing in disgust. The state of Michigan has denied allowing doctors to recommend marijuana for the treatment of autism.
On July 31, a panel of mostly doctors voted to add autism to the list of conditions qualifying one to use medical marijuana in Michigan. They weighed the evidence compiled by the petitioner Lisa Smith's team and evaluated the character of the testimony they heard from parents of sick children and medical professionals.
They read peer-reviewed studies. National tests. Pages and pages of clinical notes from doctors who are currently using marijuana-derived medicines to treat children with autism. The panel, whose sole job is to decide which illnesses to add and which to deny, said add autism.
One administrator without any medical degree has decided they are wrong. Autism Denied.
In a statement that was neither letter nor memorandum, newly appointed Director of the state's Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, Mike Zimmer, cited written concerns from medical doctors but ignored their actual vote. He cited specifics of the petition in his denial, like the use of the term "autism."
Zimmer feels that only "severe autism" should be approved for marijuana use, and that's not what was applied for. Doctors make the recommendations to use marijuana and those same doctors would determine if the patient had severe or standard autism. Pediatric use of marijuana in Michigan requires two physicians' certifications. Still, not good enough for Zimmer.
Another cited reason for the denial: people would apply to use medical marijuana for autism. Potentially too many people would apply, and the use of cannabis treatments may spread to more children than Zimmer feels is appropriate.
The Director is also concerned about the forms of medication being given to children by the parents themselves. Non-smoked forms of marijuana are not covered by the protections of the medical marijuana laws, per a 2013 Michigan Appellate Court case that Zimmer quotes at length. Zimmer himself acknowledges that there are 55 children already enrolled in the Medical Marihuana Program (MMP) who are using those non-smoked forms; he would really rather that number not grow.
Zimmer is a Governor Rick Snyder appointee. He replaced Steve Arwood, prior Director, who is the only other person ever forced to make a decision about adding a condition to the MMP. Arwood agreed to add PTSD to the MMP, but in doing so he said it should not be the Director's job nor should other mental illnesses be included in the future.
This was the second time around for autism- a previous petition had been submitted but was determined to be deficient. Attorney Komorn and his team had to sue the Attorney General's office to have the petition considered.
Advocates for the autism petition include the petitioner itself, Lisa Smith; Panel members Dr. David Crocker; David Brogren of Cannabis Patients United; Dr. Christian Bogner; attorney Michael Komorn; advocate Joe Stone; founder of Michigan Parents for Compassion Jim Powers. Many of these people participated in a broadcast of the Planet Green Trees Radio Show on Thursday evening. They shared their disappointment- and also renewed their resolve to help these children.
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Final thought: I don't think Zimmer and Snyder and the rest of the state administrators realize exactly what they are doing. By saying no, they create hordes of haters.
Say yes, and a few hundred parents use cannabis to treat autism. Zimmer says no, and people who don't even know anyone suffering from the disease think he's an asshole. 173,000 patients in Michigan will never support him. I hope Zimmer has no political aspirations because he won't be electable for Drain Commissioner after this.
Naturally, that's why a Snyder puts a Zimmer in that place. To take the heat. To be the fall guy. Problem is, we've been doing this long enough to see the strings when the puppet is pulled.
I wrote a story on August 1 about how my tired eyes were filled with hope. Here we are, looking at a denial statement, and the hope fades away. In the absence of hope, I default to one of two emotions: despair or anger. Anger is winning.
Michigan's next big marijuana conference is one month away! Join Rick Thompson for the Michigan Cannabis Business Development Conference on September 26 at the Holiday Inn Gateway Centre.
Source: The Compassion Chronicles