Parents, doctors, and even a handful of state lawmakers have repeatedly asked the Ohio State Medical Board to add autism to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana, and it is said no every time.
“I think you got into a difficult position,” said Republican Senator Steve Huffman, an ambulance who co-wrote Ohio’s medical marijuana law. “We still don’t have the scientific data I think the board is looking for, and we can’t have it because of the federal government.”
Cannabis research across the country is hampered by the fact that the drug remains a List 1 substance – meaning the federal government is mistaking it for heroin and other drugs that have a high risk of addiction and are not used medicinally. Opioids such as oxycodone are listed in Appendix 2, which despite their risk of addiction, allows certain medical uses.
Other countries like Israel have started studying cannabis in adults and children with autism, but the research hasn’t been enough to convince the Ohio board.
Because of this, a bipartisan group of state lawmakers has decided to look after the Medical Board and possibly add autism to the list of conditions eligible for medical cannabis by House Bill 60.
If successful, it will be the first time Ohio lawmakers add a qualifying condition since launching the Medical Marijuana Program in 2016. This could be the first step in a major overhaul of the entire system.
“I think this question is just saying that our program is not working, and it is the first of many steps necessary to fix it,” said Juanita Brent, D-Cleveland Rep. “We want the people who need medical cannabis to have better access to it.”
Build a better system
Patients didn’t start buying medical marijuana in Ohio until 2019, and sales in the first year fell far short of projections. About 30% of patients have never made a single purchase from a pharmacy.
Some blamed restrictive program rules while others blamed rollout issues arising from the way Ohio divided oversight of the program between three different agencies (Department of Commerce, Board of Pharmacy, and State Medical Board).
“We made it too awkward,” said Huffman.
Because of this, he and Senator Kirk Schuring, R-Canton, are working on another bill to revise the entire medical marijuana system in Ohio – including who regulates pharmacies, how growers increase production, and how new conditions are approved .
“I know that for some people it will never go far enough and for other people it will go too far,” said Huffman. “Ultimately, however, it is about the patient.”
And they have a lot of complaints.
“It’s still too expensive, not enough conditions, I have to drive 2.5 hours to get the rubbers that work for me,” Huffman said when asked about some of the most common criticisms.
More:Ohio could triple the number of medical marijuana dispensaries. But not until next year
Huffman said he and Schuring are still speaking to stakeholders and have no plans to get the actual legislation in place until August. But Brent said she was encouraged to hear that Republicans who control both Ohio House and the Senate think the program could be improved.
“It was passed in a hurry to make sure it didn’t get to the voters,” said Brent. So it’s no surprise to them that Ohio didn’t quite get it right the first time around.
But it will depend on education.
She knows that some of her colleagues are instinctual against anything cannabis-related, and it doesn’t help that Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital have both moved to reject cannabis for treating children in the spectrum in 2020 .
“There is little rigorous evidence that marijuana or its derivatives are of any benefit to patients with autism and anxiety,” wrote Sarah Kincaid on behalf of the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association on several psychiatric illnesses. “
Her co-sponsor, Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Green Township, told a committee in March that it does not usually question the motives of people who oppose the legislation, but is skeptical of those who oppose another Treating the disease would benefit with traditional drugs.
His main argument in favor of passing HB 60 was this: Seventeen states are already allowing it and the scientific evidence is growing. So why not let Ohio parents and doctors decide whether medical marijuana would help a child on the spectrum?
“In order to pass this bill, no patients or parents have to take medical marijuana. They only have the choice to try this in consultation with their doctor,” said Seitz. “If we have the right to try, if these are not just empty.” rhetorical words to then quote an ex-president: “What have you got to lose?”
About the bill
What is it: House bill 60
What it would do: Add Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana in Ohio.
Status: The bill is on the House Health Committee pending further hearings.
We weigh: The two main sponsors are Rep. Bill Seitz (614) -466-8258 and Rep. Juanita Brent (614) -466-1408.