- Associated Press - Monday, July 20, 2015

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A vote to recommend whether some forms of autism should qualify for medical marijuana in Michigan was postponed Monday to give an advisory panel more time to study hundreds of pages of research.

The delay by the Michigan Medical Marijuana Review Panel, which will meet again July 31, frustrated a Detroit-area man who drove 100 miles through the morning rush hour to reach the capital.

“We’re trying everything and anything possible,” said Dwight Zahringer of Clinton Township, whose 3 ½-year-old son is autistic. “I hope you guys can get this thing figured out.”

Supporters say oil extracted from marijuana has been effective in controlling severe physical behavior by kids with extreme forms of autism. But experts writing in the February edition of the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics cautioned that it might serve only as a “last-line therapy.”

The panel’s job is to make a recommendation in favor or against adding autism to the list of conditions, such as cancer, glaucoma, HIV and hepatitis C, that people can use medical marijuana to relieve side effects. A public hearing was held in May, with most people speaking in favor.

Any decision to add autism would ultimately rest with the director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, known as LARA. Only one condition - post-traumatic stress disorder - has been added since voters approved medical marijuana in 2008.

Only five of nine panel members attended the meeting. David Brogren, who supports adding autism, asked for the delay after learning that hundreds of pages of research had not been shared with all members. The explanation was unclear, and LARA staff assigned to assist the board refused to speak to The Associated Press.

“Do I think it was an honest mistake? Yes, I do,” Brogren said after the meeting.

He said the documents are important because a 2013 autism petition was rejected, partly because board members said they hadn’t seen enough evidence.

Zahringer said he’d climb a mountain to find something that would help his son, Brunello, who doesn’t talk, often flaps his hands and is very sensitive to sound and light.

“I’m in favor of exploring all options,” Zahringer told the AP.

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Follow Ed White at https://twitter.com/edwhiteap

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