A group of Arizona moms fighting for permission to treat their kids’ autism with medical marijuana began pleading their case Tuesday before a judge.
Arizona Moms Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism filed a petition last year to add autism to the list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis. The Arizona Department of Health Services denied the petition, so the moms appealed.
The hearing Tuesday was the first of two days of testimony in the appeal case filed by the moms.
They’re hoping the administrative appeal will be a turning point in their fight. By July, eight states will allow individuals with autism to qualify for medical marijuana.
"My son spoke for the first time in his life because of medical cannabis," said Brandy Williams of AZ MAMMA.
Williams brought her 7-year-old son Logan to the hearing.
Technically, she's allowed to give him medical marijuana for his seizures, not his autism, but she says the plant has had life-changing effects on him and their family.
"I'm not afraid to give my son a hug anymore. We don't have to walk on eggshells all the time. I can let my guard down and my son can just play, instead of just rage all the time," Williams said.
Other moms who have not been able to qualify their children for cannabis treatments brought pictures but kept their kids at home.
"I have scars all over my body from her scratching me and biting," said Brittney Crank of her autistic daughter.
Angela Wilson drove nearly five hours to attend the hearing. She said she was desperate for an alternative treatment to her son’s autism.
"The only medicines we have access to right now without a qualifying condition are pharmaceuticals and those hold a long list of harmful side effects," she said.
In cross-examination, attorneys for the Department of Health Services suggested there isn't enough evidence on the benefits of cannabis on autism.
Experts brought in by the moms said there is.
"If you catch it early in the first developmental symptoms, you can affect a major benefit," testified Dr. Judy A. Mikovits, a former researcher at the National Cancer Institute.
Testimony will continue Wednesday morning. The judge is expected to issue a decision on whether the state improperly rejected the moms’ petition within the next three weeks.
The judge cannot compel the Department of Health Services to add autism to the list of qualifying conditions, according to the attorney representing the moms, Sonia Martinez. However, Martinez said administrative hearings like these typically carry significant weight with the department.
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