House Bill 1028 was amended Feb. 6 to specify that the physician prescribing medical marijuana to an autistic child should be a "primary care provider, physician with experience in autism spectrum disorder, or licensed mental health care provider acting within their scope of practice."
If the prescribing physician is not the child's primary care doctor, they should review the child's medical records.
"I had some reservations with this bill as originally written because I felt it was going to impose on the relationship between a primary care physician such as myself and patients," Rep. Yadira Caraveo (D-Thornton), a pediatrician, said. "This amendment, which I am wholly in support of ... will ensure that when children are diagnosed with something like severe autism spectrum disorder that their primary care doctor is part of that process."
The bill is scheduled for a final vote in the House on Feb. 7 and will then be referred to the Senate.
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Last year, a state bill that would have have added autism spectrum disorders to the list of qualifying conditions for a medical cannabis prescription passed both chambers of the state Assembly with bipartisan support.
But on June 5, Gov. John Hickenlooper vetoed the bill, causing outcry among its supporters — including Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism.
At the time, gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis released a statement opposing Hickenlooper's decision to veto that legislation, along with a bill allowing tasting rooms for marijuana businesses and another intended to make it easier to invest in the cannabis industry.
Now, it looks like the ball may soon be in Polis's court.
This year, Reps. Edie Hooton (D-Boulder) and Kim Ransom (D-Littleton) introduced a new version of the bill. House Bill 1028, titled Medical Marijuana Condition Autism, has passed the House Committee on Health and Insurance and been referred to the chamber as a whole. It awaits a final vote, which was originally scheduled for Jan. 30 but has been postponed every day since then.
"I really respect Rep. Hooton for her leadership, representing a lot of families and parents on this issue," House Majority Leader Alec Garnett said when asked about the bill's progress. "I want to thank her and Rep. Singer for bringing people to the table to help talk through some differences between stakeholders on this issue, and I’m confident that when Rep. Hooton gives me the cue that this bill will make it out of the House."
Last year's version passed by a vote of 53 to 11 in the Democrat-controlled House, and 32 to 3 in the Republican-controlled Senate, so it should coast by easily this year, though the Senate majority has flipped.
After that, it'll be up to Polis to sign the bill — who made clear where he stands last year.
"HB 1263...would have helped Coloradans with autism receive the care that will help them go to school, start careers and live fulfilling lives," Polis said in June. "...I hope to see these thoughtful, bipartisan bills to help Coloradans with autism and grow our economy reintroduced in the next legislative session. If they are, and if I'm governor when that happens, I will gladly sign them into law."
Read the full text of the bill here:
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