Parents of children with autism hope for legalization of medical cannabis

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) - A bill in the South Carolina Statehouse would legalize medical cannabis for people living with a wide span of conditions from glaucoma to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to cerebral palsy.

Autism falls under the category of "neurological diseases and disorders" which could receive a prescription for medical cannabis.

16-year-old Haleigh is classified as "moderate to severe" on the autism spectrum. She is non-verbal and struggles communicating.

Her mother, Kristin Jones, says, "We're really working on typing, so her world can open up a little bit more to us."

Haleigh is starting to use an app to improve some of those skills.

Jones says, "This app will speak for her, she pushes a button and it will repeat what she typed."

While Haleigh is learning how to communicate which toys she wants to play with, or songs for her mother to sing, expressing feelings like anxiety and frustration can be harder sometimes leading to what's called an "autism meltdown".

Jones says, "We had a lot of behavioral issues, at the grocery store check out waiting in line, she would throw herself on the floor, she'll start some headbutting, she'll start pushing into us and it can get a little violent."

But over the past two years, those episodes have melted away thanks to cannabidiol, or CBD oil, which is legally made in South Carolina from hemp. 

Jones says, "She's a lot calmer than she was. It seems like it takes away from her tension, instead of being nervous or having anxiety. I feel like that's made a large impact on Haleigh's life."

Medical cannabis would also include tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which has an increased calming effect for families who don't see results from CBD.

Jones says, "I personally know families where the child has ripped the toilet off the bathroom floor and they truly struggle more than we do."

She adds this could help children stop using other worrisome medications.

Jones says, "I believe that there are already so many medications that these kids are on. I think it's the opposite, I don't think it would be as addictive as on an opioid."

The South Carolina Senate is currently on furlough, we will provide an update when the bill is scheduled to reach the Senate floor.

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