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Governor of Colorado Rejects Medical Marijuana for Autism Treatment

Gov. Hickenlooper’s veto of the autism measure came during a bill signing ceremony in which he set a personal record for vetoes.

Adam Drury

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Governor of Colorado Rejects Medical Marijuana for Autism Treatment
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Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is on his way out of office, leaving behind a record-setting trail of vetoed legislation, The Gazette reports. During a Tuesday bill-signing ceremony, Hickenlooper suggested would be his last, the governor passed on HB 1263, which would have added autism spectrum disorder as a qualifying condition for the state’s medical cannabis program.

Gov. Hickenlooper Vetoes Legislation To Add Autism To List of Qualifying Conditions

Adults and children with autism and their parents and caregivers held an early rally at the Colorado state capitol building on Tuesday, maintaining the vigil for the rest of the day.

Their cause was gaining support of Colorado HB 1263, which would have granted children with autism access to legal medical marijuana treatments. The bill would have also allowed adults to treat autism with cannabis, although anyone 21 or over can purchase adult-use cannabis in Colorado.

State chapter director of Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism (MAMMA) Michelle Walker said HB 1263 was about giving “hope to families who have children with autism as well as autistic adults throughout the state of Colorado,” The Gazette reports.

During their rally, the bill’s supporters implored the governor to sign the legislation into law. Ultimately, however, their efforts were not enough to convince Gov. Hickenlooper. He vetoed the bill along with three others on Tuesday, bringing his 2018 total to nine vetoes.

Bi-Partisan Support Not Enough To Turn Autism Measure Into Law

Of the 30 states (and D.C.) that have legalized medical cannabis, only 5 consider autism spectrum disorder a qualifying condition. Colorado was poised to become the sixth. But bi-partisan support for the measure was not enough to convince Gov. Hickenlooper to sign the bill.

HB 1263 passed the Colorado Senate with a 32-3 majority. The House voted 54-7 in favor of the bill. But that, and MAMMA’s vocal presence in the capitol Tuesday didn’t sway Hickenlooper.

He says other autism advocates and support groups failed to turn out for (or against) the bill. “Their neutrality speaks volumes,” Hickenlooper said in his office.

The governor also said he hadn’t received any support for the autism measure from certified pediatricians. “I’m sure they’re out there, but I haven’t found a pediatrician yet who thinks it’s a good idea to sign this bill,” Hickenlooper said.

Incidentally, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is currently underway with the first U.S. study of medical cannabis and autistic children. Researchers say significant anecdotal evidence about the effectiveness of cannabis treatments for autism prompted the study.

Hickenlooper did acknowledge the compelling arguments autism advocates and care providers have made in favor of the bill. The governor’s veto letter expressed sympathy for families seeking safe and effective autism treatments.

Ultimately, however, Hickenlooper cited health concerns and insufficient data as reasons for his veto.

Other Legislation

The governor’s veto of Colorado’s autism measure comes just hours after the governor passed on another piece of marijuana legislation, HB 1258. That bill would have allowed retail dispensaries to offer “tasting room” amenities to customers, giving them a chance to sample small amounts of edibles and vapable products on site.

And at the same bill signing ceremony Tuesday, Gov. Hickenlooper also vetoed HB 1011, giving publicly traded companies the opportunity to invest in the Colorado cannabis industry. The governor put the onus for that rejection on the Attorney General’s office, which had starkly warned against such proposals.

Hickenlooper’s service as Colorado governor will come to an end in January when he reaches the two-term limit. Between now and then, Hickenlooper likely won’t sign any new pieces of legislation. So Coloradans will have to wait until the next legislative sessions for further changes to the state’s cannabis program.

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