The Colorado House on Thursday gave unanimous consent to a bill that will add autism to the list of conditions for which medical marijuana can be prescribed.
The 63-0 vote on House Bill 1038, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Edie Hooton of Boulder and Republican Rep. Kim Ransom of Lone Tree, followed two debates on the House floor. For those who regularly follow the General Assembly, there is usually just one debate on the House floor before a bill, if passed, goes to a final vote.
The bill was debated by the full House on Jan. 25. The strongest opposition came from Democratic Rep. Yadira Caraveo of Thornton, a pediatrician who sits on the House Health and Insurance Committee and was the only “no” vote for the bill when it was heard on Jan. 23.
Caraveo contended the bill would put law ahead of science. The bill, a revival from one vetoed by Gov. John Hickenlooper last year, is opposed by medical professionals because of a lack of scientific proof that medical marijuana would help children with severe autism, she said.
Caraveo also objected to a provision in the bill that struck previous law that required the diagnosis be confirmed by two doctors, one of whom had to be a pediatrician, family physician or adolescent psychiatrist and a member of the child’s medical team.
Caraveo’s concerns were heard. The bill sat, awaiting a final vote, until Wednesday, when House leadership instead asked that the measure go back for another round of debate and, presumably, amendments.
Hooton offered an amendment she said would bring opponents to a neutral place. She attributed that amendment to Democratic Rep. Jonathan Singer of Longmont, who has long been an advocate for medical marijuana.
The amendment specified the kinds of doctors who could approve medical marijuana treatment, which could include either the child’s primary care physician, a physician with experience in autism or another licensed mental health provider whose specialty includes autism. If the prescriber is not the primary care physician, the bill requires the prescriber review the child’s medical records of the physician or mental health provider who has diagnosed the child with autism.
Singer, in taking a bow, said the fundamental issue is “whether you trust doctors or trust parents. I trust both,” he said. This should promote discussions between parents and doctors to ensure that they are doing the right thing, Singer said.
Caraveo said she supported the amendment, stating the previous version would have interfered with the relationship between a parent and doctor. This will ensure that when a child is diagnosed with the autism spectrum disorder, the primary physician will be involved in the discussion of medical marijuana.
The 63-0 vote on Thursday included a “yes” from Caraveo. The bill now heads to the Senate.