The State Medical Board of Ohio is gearing up to vote on a medical marijuana program expansion that would make more than half of Ohioans eligible for cannabis treatments. On Wednesday, the board’s four-member advisory committee will decide whether or not to recommend adding five new qualifying conditions to the state’s medical cannabis program. If they do, the full 12-member medical board will vote on June 12 to add insomnia, depression, anxiety, autism spectrum disorder and opioid use disorder to Ohio’s current list of 21 qualifying conditions.
If board members approve the expansion, Ohio will become the first state to specifically codify insomnia and depression as eligible for medical cannabis treatments.
Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Program Covers Conditions Most States Don’t
Ohio legalized medical marijuana in 2016, but a series of delays pushed the actual launch of the program back to late-2018. Dispensaries didn’t open until January 2019, and the wait significantly impacted patients, who had to deal with aggressive law enforcement, confiscations, interference from healthcare provider networks and limited dispensary access.
Those shortcomings notwithstanding, Ohio’s program is poised to be one of the most accessible in the country in terms of qualifying conditions. The 2016 law legalizing medical cannabis lists 21 qualifying conditions and gives the medical board the authority to add more. Ohio’s list includes many of the most widely adopted qualifying conditions, such as epilepsy, cancer and chronic pain. But it also includes conditions that very few states have made eligible for medical cannabis treatments.
Ohio’s medical marijuana program is currently one of the few to include rare conditions like sickle cell disease, fibromyalgia and Tourette syndrome. It is also the only medical-only state in which patients suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a brain injury affecting athletes and military veterans, can receive medical cannabis treatments.
And if the state medical board approves adding insomnia and depression, Ohio will also be the only state to include those conditions.
New Conditions Would Make Nearly 3.7 Million Ohioans Eligible for Medical Cannabis
Ohio isn’t the only state where patients with depression, insomnia and CTE can legally obtain medical cannabis. Instead, it will be the only medical-marijuana state to specifically include those conditions as eligible by law. In some states, like California, doctors can make a cannabis recommendation for any condition they see fit. But in states with more restrictive medical access, doctors can only recommend cannabis for certain approved conditions.
There are about 11.7 million people living in Ohio. Roughly 3.5 million of them have a diagnosis for at least one of the qualifying conditions under the 2016 law.
Adding insomnia, depression, anxiety, autism spectrum disorder, and opioid use disorder would effectively double the number of patients who could qualify for a medical marijuana card. According to reports, those conditions apply to about 3.17 million people in Ohio. In total, then, nearly 3.7 million Ohioans could be eligible for medical cannabis in five weeks.
Anxiety and insomnia would add the most Ohioans to the list of eligible patients, at 1.6 million and 860,000, respectively. Depression would add another 725,000. In Ohio, there are about 44,000 children with autism, but the state does not have figures on adults living with autism.
And as for opioid use disorder, Ohio, like the nation at large, does not have any real data. But if it adds this condition, Ohio will join a small but growing number of states, including New York, to provide access to medical cannabis in a bid to curb opioid abuse and related deaths.