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Columnist: NORML “a Pusher” of Medical Marijuana and Autism

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(National Post) [T]he idea of treating any form of autism with marijuana at any age was news to me. As I soon discovered, parents in the U.S. are experimenting with marijuana with their autistic kids. At least one prominent autism support group, and folks at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Law (NORML), seems to think this is just fine.

I have no doubt that the promotion of marijuana for medical reasons is a wedge strategy adored by the legalization movement. I think marijuana advocates are becoming a whole new kind of pusher, arguing that their recreational drug of choice can cure a host of things that ail me, or my disabled kid.

I guess I’m going to qualify as one of those “moralists who will demean the parents who use cannabis, a non-toxic and safe herb” in treating their child’s autism, as NORML talk radio host and “outreach co-ordinator” Russ Belville berated on February 22.

As a parent with an autistic child, certainly you can sympathize with Mieko Hester-Perez.  Her son’s autism was so bad he was having 300 violent outbursts per day and literally eating his shirts.  After treatment with a small amount of cannabis baked into a cookie, her son is calm and non-violent, happy and smiling, and sticks to food for lunch.

Parents are frightened of this medical treatment because of years of fear-mongering about that demon weed, marijuana.  Their minds are flooded with mental images of a neglectful parent unrolling a dime bag and lighting up bong hits for their nine-year-old.  They imagine their child with half-lidded bloodshot eyes saying “dude” too much.

All children depend on parents and physicians making informed decisions about their medical treatment. An autistic child often lacks the capacity to comprehend that they’re even being medicated, never mind with what (especially if you hide it in a brownie). Some pharmaceuticals do have serious known side effects and administering them cannot be taken lightly. But to me, giving an autistic child marijuana every morning (as some parents are) is an incredibly reckless approach to behavioural management.

These parents are finding that cannabis works, and works better than many of the pharmaceuticals, and without the serious side effects.  It’s amazing to me that the writer can consider non-toxic cannabis “an incredibly reckless approach” while admitting the alternatives are known to cause harm!  Such is the power of the ingrained cultural bias against cannabis – pills “cannot be taken lightly” but they aren’t as “reckless” as a natural non-toxic herbal alternative.

You could make a persuasive medical case for reducing anxiety and stress (common issues in autism) with beer, wine, whisky and vodka. All it takes is flexible definitions of “medicine” and “illness.” If my son has autism-related behavioural problems, or a hyperactivity issue, would I be right in pouring him a couple Molson Canadians at breakfast? I can assure you he would be much mellower (and sleep better) if I got him drunk every school day, yet this is obviously not a reasonable solution.

You seem to be content with giving your son pharmaceuticals that are more dangerous than cannabis, so I can see how you’d think there is a case for medical Molsons.  For the rest of us, we understand that alcohol is a toxic drug with severe side effects and it would be ridiculous to compare it to medical use of cannabis.

I find that people who think this way about cannabis don’t have much practical experience with cannabis.  Either they don’t use it now or they used it decades ago when they were young and using lots of it to get as high as possible.  They don’t understand that a person can use small amounts of cannabis medicinally and not experience a mind-warping, giggle-inducing, couch-locking “high”.

I’d like to see NORML get out of the autistic child medication debate. Giving marijuana to eight year olds to resolve behavioural issues is a trend we should try to nip in the bud.

Ha ha, “nip in the bud”, I get it.  Look, where there are issues involving marijuana, NORML will be there, advocating for the people who use it responsibly, defending them from National Post columnists who’d judge them to be unfit parents for seeking a natural, safe, and effective solution for their suffering children.


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