Dem bill adds autism to list of medical marijuana illnesses

A state lawmaker is seeking to force state health officials to do something they have previously rejected: allow the use of medical marijuana to treat autism.

The proposal by Rep. Diego Espinoza, D-Tolleson, would add “autism spectrum disorder” to the list of what a 2010 voter-approved law considers “debilitating medical conditions” for which a doctor can recommend the use of marijuana by patients. Espinoza said parents want that as an option for treating some of the symptoms as an alternative to other medications.

HB 2049 also would allow the use of marijuana by those who are suffering from opioid use disorder. Espinoza said he sees the use of marijuana as far preferable to people dying in his legislative district from overdoses.

The 2010 law allows doctors to recommend marijuana to those who suffer from certain listed conditions, ranging from cancer, glaucoma, AIDS and Crohn’s disease to seizures, severe nausea and severe and chronic pain. But the law also allows state health officials to add conditions themselves − if they believe it is medically justified.

Parents of some children with autism made such a request two years ago only to have their plea rejected. That decision was upheld last year, with a state hearing officer concluding that the petition “failed to provide evidence that the use of marijuana will provide therapeutic or palliative benefit to an individual suffering from ASD.”

Espinoza’s bill would eliminate the need for health department approval or even medical studies by getting legislators to add autism into the list of permitted conditions in the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. But he said bypassing the department does not bother him.

He pointed out that Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed legislation earlier this year adding autism to the list of conditions for which medical marijuana can be recommended.

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