A petition was filed to allow doctors to prescribe medical marijuana for patients with autism back in April. At a hearing in August, one parent argued that autism qualifies as a debilitating medical condition.
In a letter sent to parents, the health department said that effective Tuesday, doctors will be able to prescribe medical marijuana for autistic patients, putting Rhode Island on a short list of states to do so.
The decision states it is "a final action of RIDOH, subject to judicial approval."
The petition requested using Cannabidiol (CBD) to treat autism. CBD does not contain Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the ingredient in marijuana that gets the user "high."
The Department of Health's decision lists several requirements for doctors, including considering the use of "pharmaceutic grade forms of pure CBD" before recommending medical marijuana therapy.
The decision says only the practitioner can document the reason why the previously listed pharmaceutical medications are not used and why medical marijuana will be used instead.
Other requirements include assessments at least three months after initial usage, consulting with specialists in child psychiatry, pediatric neurology or developmental pediatrics and discontinuing use if there is no improvement in behavior.
RIDOH Public Information Officer Joseph Wendelken said the intention of the decision "is to ensure that the patient’s physician is consulting with the appropriate subspecialist to evaluate the risks and benefits."
Nicole Cervantes testified in August that her son used to bang his head so hard, his forehead was sphere-shaped. She said his behavior improved after she started giving him CBD.
Hasbro Children's Hospital pediatrician Dr. Randal Rockney also testified, saying the drug could potentially help "manage the behavioral manifestations" autism.
According to the website, Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana (MAMMA), seven other states list autism as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana. Massachusets is one of five states that allow usage for autism with "appropriate doctor recommendations."
Medical marijuana can be used legally in Rhode Island for several other conditions including cancer, seizures, glaucoma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Read the original article on wpri.com.