Ohio cannabis regulators last week added irritable bowel syndrome as a qualifying condition to use medical marijuana but declined to approve petitions to add autism and obsessive-compulsive disorder to the state’s list.
Under Ohio’s medical marijuana laws, interested parties are permitted to petition the Ohio Medical Board to add new qualifying conditions annually. Last week, the board voted to approve petitions to add irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). But at the same time, the board announced it would not add autism or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) to the list this year.
“While this addition will help expand patient access to medical marijuana and help many Ohio patients with this condition, we are disappointed the board did not approve autism spectrum disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder,” said Charlie Trefny, the director of government affairs for the industry group the Ohio Medical Cannabis Industry Association.
Board Followed Committee Recommendations
The board’s decisions followed the recommendations of its Medical Marijuana Committee. Dr. Frederick Slezak, the committee’s expert on IBS, said that medical marijuana use could help relieve symptoms including vomiting, pain and nausea. He also noted that cannabis can be effective for acute symptoms, while most other therapies for IBS are focused on long-term treatment.
Dr. LaRae Copley, one of the committee’s autism experts, said that there are not enough placebo-controlled studies of cannabis treatment to support adding the condition to the state’s list of qualifying conditions. The committee’s OCD expert, Dr. Timothy Kantz, said some studies showed promising results, but added that he believes the quality of some of the evidence is weak.
In both cases, the committee’s experts said the potential risks of cannabis, including psychosis, negative impacts on cognitive development and cannabis use disorder, outweighed the benefits. But patient advocates challenged that assertion.
“The available scientific evidence and the experience of countless patients and doctors tell us that there are thousands of Ohioans suffering from these conditions who could benefit from treatment with medical marijuana,” said Matt Close, the executive director of the Ohio Medical Cannabis Industry Association.
Aaron Bloom, the CEO of DocMJ, a nationwide medical marijuana physician practice, applauded the addition of IBS as a qualifying condition for Ohio’s medical cannabis program. But he added that we should “strive for a healthcare system that values the expertise of medical professionals and respects the diverse needs of patients.”
“To truly harness the full potential of medical cannabis, it is essential that doctors are empowered to exercise their professional judgment and recommend it for patients based on their individual needs rather than being limited by a predefined list of approved conditions,” Bloom wrote in a statement to High Times. “By allowing doctors to make informed decisions about medical cannabis recommendations, we can ensure that patients receive the best possible care and have access to a comprehensive range of treatment options.”
More Than A Dozen Qualifying Conditions
Ohio’s medical marijuana program currently lists more than a dozen qualifying medical conditions that make a patient eligible to use cannabis medicinally, including acquired immune deficiency syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, cancer, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, Crohn’s disease, IBS, epilepsy or another seizure disorder, fibromyalgia, glaucoma, hepatitis C, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, positive status for HIV, post-traumatic stress disorder, sickle cell anemia, spinal cord disease or injury, Tourette’s syndrome, traumatic brain injury, ulcerative colitis, and chronic and severe or intractable pain.
The next opportunity to submit petitions to the Ohio Medical Board to add new qualifying conditions to the state’s medical marijuana program begins on November 1 and runs through December 31. In order for the board to reconsider conditions that have been previously rejected, petitioners must submit new scientific information to support the proposed change.
Recreational Marijuana Legalization Could Be Next
Ohio activists are also working to legalize recreational cannabis in the state, with a proposed ballot measure likely appearing on ballots later this year. Earlier this month, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted petitions for a legalization initiative with more than 222,000 signatures to the Ohio Secretary of State’s office. To qualify for the ballot for the November election, state officials must certify about 125,000 signatures, giving the group a significant margin to account for signatures deemed invalid.
“We are thrilled to have reached this milestone,” campaign spokesperson Tom Haren said in a statement when the signatures were submitted. “This is a testament to the hard work of our campaign and the support of Ohio voters who are ready for common-sense marijuana reform.”
If passed, the proposed ballot initiative would legalize recreational marijuana in Ohio for adults 21 and older, who would be permitted to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and up to 15 grams of cannabis concentrates. The proposal also legalizes marijuana cultivation for personal use, with adults allowed to grow up to six cannabis plants. Households with more than one adult would be permitted to grow a total of 12 plants.
The commercial production and sales of cannabis products would be regulated by a new state agency dubbed the Division of Cannabis Control, which would have the authority to “license, regulate, investigate, and penalize adult use cannabis operators, adult use testing laboratories, and individuals required to be licensed.” Cannabis products would carry a 10% tax, which would be dedicated to administrative costs of regulation, substance misuse treatment programs and a social equity and jobs program. Municipalities with licensed recreational marijuana dispensaries would also receive a share of cannabis tax revenue. Under the proposal’s social equity program, some cannabis cultivation and dispensary licenses would be reserved for individuals from communities that have faced disproportionate enforcement of Ohio’s current marijuana laws.