A committee of experts has rescinded its recommendation to approve medical marijuana to treat autism and anxiety in Ohio.
The expert review committee of the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program had voted last fall to recommend that the State Medical Board of Ohio approve marijuana to treat those conditions, but it reversed course after hearing from a panel of experts Wednesday.
Two experts testified in favor of marijuana’s use, and four experts against it. In Ohio, marijuana is approved to treat 21 medical conditions, including chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The committee decided that research on the use of marijuana to treat autism and anxiety is inconclusive.
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“At this point, approval seems premature,” said medical board President Michael Schottenstein, who is also a member of the review committee. “There should be a consensus, and it’s clear that we don’t have that.”
Committee member Robert Giacalone also opposed the recommendation. “There is, at best, anecdotal evidence on the other side,” he said.
Once a condition is on the list of 21 qualifying conditions, it cannot be removed, Schottenstein said. The board can add the condition later if more compelling evidence emerges, he said.
Gary Wenk, a professor of psychology at Ohio State University who studies the effects of drugs on the brain, told the committee that research suggests that medicinal marijuana can aid neural development and reduce incidents of self-harm in autistic children.
“I came down on the side of saying this is useful,” he said, but he acknowledged that the studies he cited were conducted on animals, not humans.
Anup Patel, section chief of neurology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, cautioned against approval, citing a lack of rigorous clinical trials.
Numerous patients have heard anecdotal evidence that marijuana can treat autism and anxiety, Patel said, but he added that not every drug affects everyone in the same way, which is why conclusive research is so important.
“The reality is we should all still be held to the same standard of the scientific method,” he said.
Thomas Rosenberger, associate director of the Ohio Medical Cannabis Cultivators Association, pointed out that hemp products such as CBD already are available in retail stores. Hemp, like marijuana, is derived from the cannabis plant but lacks the intoxicating effects.
The full medical board probably will vote on the issue at its next meeting on Sept. 11.