More and more states are in the process of developing legislation to legalize the medical and recreational use of cannabis, or "marijuana" as it is colloquially known. This has been, and continues to be, a huge point of controversy between liberals and conservatives across the U.S.

But another voice has recently weighed in on the argument: the collective voice of mothers and fathers of autistic children in every state, who have found relief for their children through the use of Medical Marijuana.

What does cannabis have to do with Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a three-fold collection of symptoms: speech delay, social delay, and repetitive or self-stimulatory behaviors.

And this is a broad spectrum. The one hand presents autistic savants, much like "The Good Doctor" on ABC, played by the charming and intelligent Freddie Highmore. However, on the other extreme of the spectrum stand much more severely affected children: the nonverbal, head-banging, biting, kicking, crying, desperate children who cannot sleep or eat and are prone to aggression and self-injury.

I've worked with autistic children for six years in various capacities. There's autism, and then there's... autism. And while we love and care for every child, teen, and adult on the spectrum, the families affected by the more severe symptoms are often in desperate need of relief.

That's where MAMMA comes in

Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism (MAMMA) is a small, but quickly growing organization that seeks treatment for the symptoms of autism through the use of medical marijuana. They argue that, contrary to the use of pharmaceuticals such as antipsychotics and Ritalin (which often have disastrous side effects), cannabis is a natural alternative, providing quick and calming relief for kids and adults with autism.

Unfortunately for some ASD families, not every state in the U.S. has legalized medical marijuana. That's why some families are hoping a new medical study will be the catalyst for the legalization they're looking for.

Making the case for medical marijuana

Cannabis is a psychoactive drug, meaning it affects the state of the mind, generally altering mood, perception, and behavior.

Autism is a disorder of the brain, so it stands to reason that a psychoactive drug would positively affect its primary symptoms.

In January of 2018, Athena Zupp began a groundbreaking study at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, by recording data from children being treated with medical marijuana. While the children will not be provided any cannabis by the hospital itself (still controversial), those who are already receiving it will be studied. Presumably, the hospital hopes to discover the validity of medical marijuana as a treatment for autism and related disorders.

A hospital in Israel performed a similar study in 2017, and other countries are following suit.

In conclusion, there are, obviously, many angles to consider when exploring the use of cannabis, whether for medicinal or recreational purposes. But all arguments aside, thousands of parents are awaiting the results of this study in hopes of providing some relief for their children.