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Hickenlooper medical-pot veto is followed by call for research

Author: Joey Bunch - June 6, 2018 - Updated: June 6, 2018

Jacks-Law-Boy-Dies_Luni.jpg
medical marijuanaStacey Linn jokes with her 15-year-old son, Jack Splitt, outside their home in Lakewood. The teenager, died on Aug. 24, 2016, months after the legislature passed a law named after him to allow students who rely on medical marijuana to use it at school. (Photo by David Zalubowski/AP file photo)

The day after Gov. John Hickenlooper vetoed a bill that would have made autism a condition that qualifies for medical marijuana, Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne signed an executive order calling for more research.

Lynne signed the order because Hickenlooper was traveling to give a speech in Detroit Wednesday, his office said.

The order instructs the state State Board of Health to examine the “safety and efficacy of medical marijuana” to treat autism children over the next 18 months. If no significant health or developmental risks are found, the state health department would be authorized to modify rules around qualifications for children and medical marijuana.

Talking to reporters Tuesday afternoon, before deciding on the veto of House Bill 1263, Hickenlooper expressed his sympathy for the parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who haven’t found help with traditional remedies.

But, he said, he worries about sending a message that marijuana is a panacea for other teenagers’ problems, without adequate research.

Colorado Politics reported Tuesday that Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is conducting the first U.S. study on the benefits of medical marijuana in autistic children. The executive order encourages parents and autistic children to participate in the study.

HB 1263 sailed through the legislature ahead of the governor’s veto.

Supporters of the legislation didn’t see the executive order as an apt compromise, especially since a new legislature and governor could address the issue as soon as next January.

Stacey Linn, executive director of the Cannability Foundation, which fought for the legislation, said parents met with the governor Tuesday and shared international research and other compelling information with him. She saw no need for more research and more time at the expense of children who are suffering.

“I think there are a number of families who woke up this morning and don’t see this as a win for them,” she said. “I don’t think there’s too much solace in an 18-month window to tell us what we already know.”

Linn is the mother of the late Jack Splitt, the namesake of Jack’s Law, which the Colorado legislature passed before his death in 2016. Jack’s Law allows children who have a medical marijuana license to use it as needed at school. House Bill 1286, signed by the governor Monday, would allow school nurses to administer doses.

Meanwhile, nine medical organizations signed onto a statement Wednesday supporting Hickenlooper’s veto: the Colorado chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Colorado Academy of Family Physicians, the Colorado Society of Osteopathic Medicine, the Colorado chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians, the Colorado Psychiatric Society, the Colorado Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Society, the Colorado Medical Society, Children’s Hospital Colorado and Denver Health Medical Center.

“The health care providers and institutions we represent treat people with ASD daily, and we appreciate the struggles and frustrations—as well as the joys and fulfillment—that come from living with this condition,” they stated. “We have deep respect for the challenges these families face, including the difficulty in finding meaningful treatments for the core symptoms of ASD. For this reason, we can empathize with Coloradans searching for complementary and alternative treatments to alleviate the symptoms of ASD with the hope of improving their quality of life.

“At the same time, we believe it is vital, for the sake of children’s health, to ensure treatments sought out by caring parents and guardians are backed by substantial evidence, especially when they are categorized as ‘medical’ interventions and require a certificate from a physician. Therefore, we fully support research to determine the potential benefits and harms of cannabis products as a treatment modality.”

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.