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DETROIT (AP) — Michigan won't allow the use of medical marijuana to control the effects of severe autism, an official said Thursday, rejecting the recommendation of an advisory panel.
Michigan would have been the first state to add autism to the list of conditions that qualify for pot. But Mike Zimmer, director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, said he wasn't swayed, citing a lack of deep research and other concerns.
"It's disappointing, and I believe he's making a very huge mistake," said Lisa Smith of Wayne County's Van Buren Township, who filed the petition. "The children and families that can be helped by this are numerous."
Marijuana wouldn't be smoked. Supporters say oil extracted from the plant and swallowed has been effective in controlling extreme physical behavior, such as outbursts, kicking and punching.
The petition was filed by Smith after she found dramatic improvement in her 6-year-old son, who uses oil. He is autistic but is qualified to use marijuana because of epileptic seizures. Smith said she wants to help other families.
Zimmer, however, questioned whether oil even is allowed under the medical marijuana law. He said the law mostly refers to dried leaves and flowers from the plant.
"That is wrong. He misinterprets the Medical Marijuana Act," said Michael Komorn, an attorney who prepared the petition.
Zimmer also said the petition as submitted technically wouldn't limit marijuana only to autistic kids with a severe form of the condition.
"Autism likely impacts more children than other qualifying medical conditions, effectively rebutting any claim that any increase in (marijuana) participation by minors would be minimal," Zimmer said.
Two doctors must approve any use of medical marijuana by minors. Supporters of adding autism to the list included Dr. Harry Chugani, chief of pediatric neurology at Children's Hospital of Michigan in Detroit.
On a 4-2 vote, an advisory panel in July recommended adding autism to the program. Parents desperate to try a new tool packed the meeting and applauded the decision. Michigan's chief medical executive, Dr. Eden Wells, voted against the petition.
Marijuana is allowed to relieve the side effects of cancer, glaucoma, HIV, hepatitis C and a few other conditions in Michigan. Only post-traumatic stress disorder has been added since voters approved the law in 2008.
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