In The Politics of Autism, I discuss alternative treatments.
Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Ed Ehlinger today announced the decision to add autism spectrum disorders and obstructive sleep apnea as new qualifying conditions for the state’s medical cannabis program.
“Any policy decisions about cannabis are difficult due to the relative lack of published scientific evidence,” said Commissioner Ehlinger. “However, there is increasing evidence for potential benefits of medical cannabis for those with severe autism and obstructive sleep apnea.”
This year, as in years past, the Minnesota Department of Health used a formal petitioning process to solicit public input on potential qualifying conditions. Throughout June and July, Minnesotans were invited to submit petitions to add qualifying conditions. The process included public comments, a citizens’ review panel and a set of research summaries for each condition prepared by Minnesota Department of Health staff.
Petitioners put forward a total of 10 conditions for consideration this year, including anxiety disorders, autism, cortico-basal degeneration, dementia, endogenous cannabinoid deficiency syndrome, liver disease, nausea, obstructive sleep apnea, Parkinson’s disease and peripheral neuropathy. There were also petitions to add cannabis delivery methods including infused edibles and vaporizing or smoking cannabis flowers. These requests were not approved.
Autism spectrum disorder is characterized by sustained social impairments in communication and interactions, and repetitive behaviors, interests or activities. Patients certified for the program because of autism must meet the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – 5th edition) for autism. The health department’s autism research brief (PDF) found a growing body of research indicating that the human body’s endocannabinoid system may play a role in autism symptoms. In support of adding autism, the review panel report (PDF) noted the lack of effective drug treatments, the potentially severe side effects of current drug treatments and anecdotal evidence of Minnesota children with autism already receiving benefits from medical cannabis taken for other qualifying conditions.
Under current state rules, patients certified to have autism or obstructive sleep apnea will be newly eligible to enroll in the program on July 1, 2018 and receive medical cannabis from the state’s two medical cannabis manufacturers beginning Aug. 1, 2018. As with the program’s other qualifying conditions, patients will need advance certification from a Minnesota health care provider. More information on the program’s certification process is available from the Office of Medical Cannabis.