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First-Ever Study on Marijuana and Autism to Occur at a U.S. Hospital


The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is collaborating with an Australian biopharmaceutical company to study the effects of medical marijuana on children with autism. This is the first real effort being taken in the United States to understand how children with autism can benefit from medical marijuana.

The study is expected to begin early in 2018, and the children covered by the Pennsylvania Safe Harbor provision will be able to participate, according to

Athena Zuppa is leading the research team. She said, “This is truly an observational study. We’re not giving them anything [medical marijuana]. We’re just gathering data to educate ourselves.”

Anecdotal evidence is available which indicates that some of the cannabinoids naturally found in marijuana may help with symptoms of autism. Activists say that cannabinoids can help with social interaction, may help with repetitive behaviors, and don’t have the side effects that pharmaceuticals prescribed to autistic children have.

Zelda Therapeutics is the collaborating partner. They will combine their data with the hospital’s data. Zelda is funding the research effort. This data along with data from a Chilean study in 2016 will be compiled.

Erica Daniels, founder of Hope Grows for Autism, couldn’t be happier about this study. She said, “For too long, patients and their families have been missing out on genuine therapeutic options with the potential to transform lives.”

Zuppa agrees that there isn’t much information about how marijuana works in children. The study will be able to identify which children in the area are already taking medical marijuana for their autism.

Zuppa said, “We’re trying to understand that landscape of what the kids are taking. Some kids are taking only CBD and some are taking a mixture of CBD and THC. I’m trying to understand how parents make their choices.”