ST. PAUL, Minn. - Medical marijuana restrictions could soon be expanded to give access to more Minnesotans.
There was an opportunity this summer for people to request new conditions be added to the Minnesota Medical Cannabis program. Research was done and on Tuesday afternoon, families who want access for their children had the chance to give testimony before the New Condition Review Panel.
Several of them were parents of children with autism.
"He fractured my jaw, dislocated his father's arm, he's attacking us on a daily basis," Victoria Grancarich said of her son. "This is what life was like for us before medical cannabis."
Katie Kennedy is also the mother of a son with autism.
"I think it should be a doctor's choice," Kennedy said. "I think we need some more doctors that learn about medical marijuana, for sure, for children."
Kennedy and Grancarich both want to see autism added to the Minnesota Medical Cannabis program.
They say because their kids have "dual diagnoses" -- Grancarich's son also has a seizure disorder and Kennedy's son has turrets syndrome -- their kids were able to qualify for medical cannabis. They say it has helped treat both their kids' conditions.
"He was punching himself in the head 3,000 times a day, lots of skull fractures, and then we were offered this medication that's safe and non-addictive," said Grancarich. "And not only has it stopped the self injury completely and the aggression, but he's now starting to speak."
"His anxiety levels have dramatically decreased; his desire to connect with other humans has dramatically increased," said Kennedy.
The two mothers were among dozens of other parents at the state Capitol on Tuesday afternoon, sharing stories of how medical cannabis is a tool that could improve their children's quality of life.
Opponents of medical cannabis say adding more conditions, like autism, is risky.
In a statement, the Minnesota Psychiatric Society states:
“The Minnesota Psychiatric Society is concerned about efforts to add autism as a qualifying condition eligible for medical cannabis in Minnesota. We believe there is little or no significant scientific evidence that marijuana is beneficial for the treatment of autism spectrum disorder. Of particular concern to our members who treat youth, is the message that marijuana can be beneficial. As doctors, we are concerned about known adverse effects of marijuana on the developing brain.”
The Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association states:
“We are supportive of Minnesota’s medical cannabis law, which strikes a reasonable and responsible balance between public health and public safety. Because Minnesota defines legal medical cannabis as pills, oils, liquids and topicals, our law provides certain patients with access to the therapeutic aspects of cannabis yet limits the potential for illegal distribution of the drug. We’re open to further discussions on this topic as long as we can be assured any changes to our existing law will continue to keep the drug from being sold or given to adults and youth who don’t currently qualify.”
"When there's an opponent saying this medication isn't safe for adolescents, is it safer for your adolescent beating themselves to death and trying to kill everyone in their family or is it safer for them to be on a medication that restores and brings back joy in his life?" said Grancarich.
The panel will submit the pros and cons to the Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner.
Autism is just one of five new conditions reviewed. The others are nausea, corticobasal degeneration, Parkinson's disease and peripheral neuropathy. Autism had the highest number of supporters testifying on Tuesday.
The Minnesota Department of Health commissioner will need to make a decision by Dec. 1.
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