Dozens wait in line to enter the first medical marijuana dispensary in southwest Ohio. Meg Vogel, Cincinnati
COLUMBUS – The Ohio State Medical Board delayed a vote on whether to add anxiety and autism to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana in the Buckeye State.
There’s no new date set for the vote, but it could happen as early as the board’s next meeting in July.
Board President Dr. Michael Schottenstein suggested the board postpone a vote because two members recently joined the board and haven’t had time to consider the more than 2,000 pages of expert testimony about the conditions.
Schottenstein said there’s “no rush” on approving new conditions, and board members received a lot of new information, both pro and con, on the conditions in recent weeks. Among those: a letter from Nationwide Children’s Hospital urging the board to reject the conditions because of a lack of double-blind clinical research into marijuana as a treatment.
“I’m swallowing hard to even consider indications for medical marijuana for these conditions, given the very real concerns that I have about this drug,” Schottenstein said during the board meeting. “So if I have the time to educate myself or to hear from additional experts, to meet about it, and to either solidify my opinion or to provoke second thoughts, I’m glad for that.”
Schottenstein did not make himself available to reporters following the board’s vote.
A new process
Ohio’s 2016 law that created the medical marijuana program listed 21 conditions that qualify for access to the drug through a doctor’s recommendation. The Enquirer has estimated at as many as three in 10 Ohioans have at least one of these conditions. More than 31,000 people have received a patient ID card under those conditions since December 2018.
The law also created an annual process that allows citizens to propose additions to the list of qualifying conditions. This year is the first time that the process has been engaged. Dozens of new conditions were proposed in January. Five were examined by a panel of experts in the proposed conditions and doctors who have worked with medical marijuana patients.
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The experts and a medical board committee recommended that autism and anxiety be added. The full medical board on Wednesday voted against adding three other conditions not recommended by the committee: opioid addiction, depression and insomnia.
Last month, The Enquirer reported that more than 1.6 million Ohioans could become eligible for medical marijuana should the medical board approve anxiety and autism.
At least 44,000 Ohio children have autism. The national organization Autism Speaks has urged for more study on the use of medical marijuana to treat autism. Ten other states with medical-marijuana programs, including Michigan, permit its use for autism.
Children in Ohio can get a medical marijuana card with parental permission.
Patient advocates, though disappointed by Wednesday’s vote to delay a decision, said they hope the new members of the medical board will take the time to read the documentation available on using medical marijuana for autism and anxiety.
“I hope that they take into consideration the thousands of lives that this (decision) affects, not just for autism and anxiety but for the multitudes of people who will seek and get relief from medical cannabis without the cocktail of pharmaceuticals,” said Tiffany Carwile of Bryan, Ohio state director of a national group called Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism.
Carwile filed the petition with the board advocating the addition of autism. She has a young son with autism.
“Families are very anxious in waiting for the decision, and we’re putting all of our faith in the Ohio Medical Board in hope that they do the right things for our kids because our kids are suffering every day,” she said.
An estimated 1.6 million Ohioans deal with anxiety. New Jersey and West Virginia are the only two states that permit the use of medical marijuana to treat anxiety.
Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia now allow medical marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation. Each state has a different list of qualifying conditions.
Some conditions allowed in Ohio are covered in other states, including cancer, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy and glaucoma. But Ohio also has some rarer conditions on its list including sickle cell disease, fibromyalgia and Tourette syndrome.
Ohio also is the only state to permit medical marijuana to treat chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the traumatic brain damage most often found in boxers, football players and military veterans.
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