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Why I Believe Cannabinoid Medicine Is The Future Of Autism Treatment

A parent's first-hand experience with cannabis and autism gives her new hope.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When my first-born child, Leo, was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in 2007, my only mission was to do everything I could to help him. I never imagined that this journey would lead me down a path to the cannabis industry. 

Erica Daniels

After finding out Leo’s diagnosis, I spent the next decade traveling to autism specialists, meeting other parents, learning about the disorder, and implementing a variety of medical and educational interventions. I had time for little else, and my work life (and income) evaporated as my son’s needs took every bit of my time and energy to manage. 

By 2016, Leo’s treatments had hit a wall —and so had I. For years, I gave Leo a laundry list of pharmaceuticals, nutritional and natural supplements, and other therapies, but nothing worked. My child was unhappy and having long, difficult tantrums almost daily. My heart was broken for him.

Finally, I decided to try something “new,” which was actually one of the oldest documented natural medicines in the world—cannabis. It worked so well that I have since dedicated my time to building cannabinoid medicine, education, and research platforms for other families. 

Cannabinoid offers hope for autism

There is no cure for autism, and the only two drugs approved to treat autism symptoms by the FDA come with significant and sometimes permanent side effects. Cannabinoid medicine offers a safer, successful alternative to antipsychotics and has drastically improved my son and my family's quality of life. 

My journey as a mother desperate to help my child ended up teaching me that cannabinoid medicine is likely the most effective treatment for autism that we have had available to date. 

Early in my journey, I was fortunate enough to cross paths with Dr. Oludare Odumosu, CEO of Zelira Therapeutics, who shares my vision of formulating pharmaceutical-grade cannabinoid medicines as frontline treatments for autism. Together, in partnership with Ilera Healthcare, Dr. Odumosu and I launched the HOPE range of medication for the first time to patients right here in my home state of Pennsylvania. HOPE was formulated by establishing, learning, and developing medicines to target different clusters of symptoms associated with autism. HOPE uses data, feedback, and love from the autism community itself. 

In our recent white paper, we reported that 69 percent of patients who used HOPE experienced an improvement in the quality of life! This paper adds to the growing body of evidence that cannabis should be a front-line treatment for autism. 

Just this month, we broke a major barrier in the US when we launched HOPE in Louisiana in partnership with Ilera Holistic Healthcare, based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Through Zelira our goal is to have HOPE available in Australia by early next year., 

Related: New Study Will Explore Medical Marijuana as a Treatment for Autism

With recent legislation allowing all Louisiana patients and families to receive medical cannabis through a doctor's recommendation for any condition, HOPE will be the first product made to treat the symptoms of ASD available to patients at all nine Louisiana cannabis pharmacies.

With HOPE, I wanted nothing more than for other families affected by autism to access this important medicine as part of their autism toolbox.

HOPE launched in 2019 in Pennsylvania, which along with Louisiana, is among the growing list of state MMJ programs to include Autism Spectrum Disorder as a qualifying condition.