The Ohio State Medical Board will postpone its vote on whether anxiety and autism spectrum disorders should be added to the list of qualifying conditions for the state's medical marijuana program.
The Buckeye State's medical cannabis law, enacted in 2016, created an annual process allowing Ohioans to propose new qualifying conditions. This past January, the first time this process became available to the public, the state medical board received dozens of proposed new conditions. The total list was narrowed down to five, which were examined by a panel of doctors experienced with treating these ailments using medical herb.
The physician panel recommended against adding opioid use disorder, depression, and insomnia as new qualifying conditions, but did recommend adding anxiety and autism spectrum disorders. This Wednesday, the board voted against adding the three conditions that the panel did not recommend.
Instead of moving ahead with the two conditions that were recommended, Board President Dr. Michael Schottenstein suggested that the vote be put off until a later date. By way of explanation, Schottenstein said that the board did not have ample time to consider the 2,000-plus pages of expert testimony regarding these conditions, especially considering the fact that the medical board has two new members.
“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 told his fellow board members, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. "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 said that there is “no rush” to approve new qualifying conditions, but parents of children suffering from autism and other disorders disagree. “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,” said Tiffany Carwile, director of the Ohio chapter of Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism, to the Enquirer.
Carwile, who has a young son with autism, personally filed the petition advocating for autism as a qualifying condition. She hopes that the board takes “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.”
Over 30,000 people are currently registered with the state's MMJ program, but only about half of these patients have reportedly purchased cannabis at licensed dispensaries in the state. If the medical board does approve both anxiety and autism, the number of patients eligible to receive medical cannabis treatment could swell to over 1.6 million.