Ohio’s seed to sale process for producing medical marijuana. Michael Nyerges, Cincinnati Enquirer
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio is not likely to add to its medical marijuana condition list this year after a state medical board committee rejected two conditions it was considering.
The committee decided Wednesday to not recommend adding anxiety and autism spectrum disorder after hearing from four physicians from Nationwide Children’s Hospital and reviewing several letters opposing the proposed conditions.
That’s a reversal from the committee’s decision in May to recommend adding the two conditions and not adding three others.
The full board could make a final decision on the conditions at its September or October meetings, a board spokeswoman said. But the board is unlikely to vote against the committee’s recommendation.
In June, the Ohio State Medical Board voted down opioid use disorder, insomnia and depression and delayed a vote on autism and anxiety so two new board members could learn more about them and so opponents could weigh in.
Those new members, both physicians, were present for Wednesday’s meeting. It seemed at first the committee might not have a quorum to vote – two of the four members were absent. But two other board members who were in the room were appointed to the committee just before the vote.
“Approval feels premature at this time,” board president Dr. Michael Schottenstein, a Columbus-area psychiatrist, said. “For the medical board, there should be consensus to do so among respected medical authorities.”
Since June, the board received letters opposing the conditions from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Ohio Children’s Hospital Association, Ohio Psychiatric Physicians Association and the Ohio departments of Health and Mental Health and Addiction Services.
All made the same point: There’s limited clinical research on marijuana use for these conditions and the studies cited by supporters are problematic.
“The comfort’s just not there,” board member Robert Giacalone said. “I’m hearing solid science on one side and, at best, anecdotal science on the other.”
Ohio law sets 21 qualifying conditions for patients to buy and use medical marijuana if recommended to them by a state-certified physician. But once a year, the medical board accepts suggestions for new conditions, which much include evidence marijuana is beneficial in treating the condition.
Last year, Ohioans submitted 110 petitions suggesting a wide spectrum of conditions. The board whittled the list down to five and contracted medical experts to review them. The next petition period opens Nov. 1.
On Wednesday, the Nationwide physicians said they would not recommend medical marijuana for anxiety or autism in any situation. None are certified to recommend medical marijuana in Ohio, according to state records. One physician, Dr. Anup Patel, ran trials for Epidiolex, which is FDA-approved cannabidiol, or CBD, extracted from cannabis and found to reduce seizures in some children.
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Dr. Rebecca Baum, who works with autism patients at Nationwide, said pharmaceutical drugs may have side effects but they are studied and known. The long-term effects of cannabis and its main components CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol, she said, are not yet known.
“We don’t know all of the effects of CBD or THC on a developing brain,” Baum said.
Heartbroken and discouraged
Tiffany Carwile, the Bryan, Ohio mom who submitted the autism petition, was in tears Wednesday after hearing the news. Carwile’s 5-year-old son has autism and she says marijuana would improve his life.
“The medications our kids have access to now are absolutely horrible in comparison to cannabis,” Carwile said. “I am so heartbroken for Ohio. I am truly shaken to the core.”
The Food and Drug Administration has approved drugs to treat irritability that arises from autism but not its three core features.
Four states specifically allow medical marijuana use to treat anxiety and another seven allow it under broader qualification. For autism, 13 states list it as a condition including Illinois, which added it last week. Three others allow use of cannabis with small amounts of high-inducing THC.
Dr. Amish Oza, who recommends marijuana to patients at his practice Releaf Health, said the medical board should be listening to physicians and others who have first-hand experience with medical marijuana. Oza said many of his patients tell him they use medical marijuana to treat anxiety, insomnia and stress – even though their registered condition is PTSD or cancer.
Oza said patients have begged them to recommend marijuana for autism, and he would only recommend it for severe cases. Oza and the experts who recommended including autism said marijuana could have a calming effect on the patient.
“They didn’t speak about one person who tried it and said, ‘Hey, I’m using it on my kid and actually having success,” Oza told The Enquirer. “Why don’t physicians have a voice in this?”
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