Pubdate: Wed, 02 May 2018
Source: Times-Picayune, The (New Orleans, LA)
Copyright: 2018 The Times-Picayune
Author: Maria Clark


A group of Louisiana parents of children with severe autism had cause
for celebration Wednesday (May 2) as a bill (HB 627) that expands
medical marijuana as a treatment option for the condition cleared
another hurdle through the legislature.

It was one of two medical marijuana medicals aimed at expanding the
patient base in Louisiana that passed through the Senate Health and
Welfare committee. The other bill (HB 579) authored by Rep. Ted James,
D-Baton Rouge, adds glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic
pain and Parkinson's Disease to the roster of conditions already
approved for treatment with medical marijuana. Both bills will head to
the Senate for a full vote.

For some parents of children with severe autism, also known as
low-functioning autism, medical marijuana is seen as a last-resort
alternative to prescription medicines that come with a variety of
serious side-effects.

Monica Stampley, testified in favor of (HB 627) on Wednesday and spoke
about her 15-year-old son Judah a teenager living with low-functioning
autism. Children with the condition are frequently non-verbal and
unable to communicate which can cause violent behavior.

"I'm a battered woman -- there is not even a name for child on parent
violence. But this is my son, who I love so much," she said.

When asked by the committee whether she can be sure that medical
marijuana would help her son she said, "I know Abilify (one of two FDA
approved drugs for autism) has not been beneficial -- I know what has
not been beneficial," she said.

Both bills have met with some concern among opponents about the lack
of medical research to support that medical marijuana could be
beneficial in the treatment of conditions such as autism and PTSD.

Stephanie Haynes, with Save our Society from Drugs testified that the
coalition has opposed the use of medical marijuana to treat certain
conditions without enough evidence.

"It's too fast and too risky to move forward with this bill," she said
speaking in regards, to the proposal expanding medical marijuana for
the treatment of PTSD, Parkinson's, chronic pain and glaucoma. "We
support research, and it should be kept restricted until there have
been clinical trials."

John Vanchiere, a pediatrician and professor at LSU Health Shreveport
also has testified against expanding medical marijuana for the
treatment of severe autism on behalf of the Louisiana Chapter of the
American Academy of Pediatrics because of the lack of data available
on the benefits of the medicine for young patients with the condition.

"It's a risk versus benefit argument," he said on Wednesday.

Federal prohibitions on marijuana have placed healthcare institutions
as well as state lawmakers square in middle as patient demand for
access to medical marijuana and public support continues to grow.

Research looking at the medical benefits of marijuana is restricted in
the U.S. under federal law. Marijuana is classified as a controlled
Schedule 1 substance, putting it in the same category as heroin. The
Drug Enforcement Administration said in 2016 that it would not place
it in a lower Schedule 2 category which would make it easier for
health institutions to research.

Sen. Daniel Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, responded Haynes testimony,
described on Wednesday how often he has had to hear testimony from
parents and patients asking for access to medical marijuana over the

"Meanwhile I have just sat on my hands," he said. "We have not made
any forward progress on this since the 70's. It has taken too much
time--we have taken too much time."
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