The State Medical Board of Ohio rejected petitions on Wednesday to add autism spectrum disorders and anxiety to the list of conditions qualifying a patient to use medical marijuana. The board’s vote follows a recommendation last month from the state Medical Marijuana Expert Review Committee not to approve the petitions.
The committee determined that medical marijuana can provide temporary relief but could also subject patients to panic attacks. The panel also expressed concern for the health of children’s developing brains.
Dr. Michael Schottenstein, the president of the board and a member of the expert review committee, opposed adding autism and anxiety to the state’s list of qualifying conditions.
“Approval feels premature at this time,” Schottenstein said after the committee voted to reverse a previous recommendation to approve the request. “For the medical board, there should be consensus to do so among respected medical authorities.”
The board added that it would reconsider adding autism and anxiety to the state’s list of qualifying conditions, which currently includes 21 medical conditions, “if additional studies or evidence are brought forth in the petition process.”
Patients Unhappy with Board’s Decision
The state medical board’s decision didn’t sit well with many Ohioans, including one man who shouted “shameful” as the board left Wednesday’s meeting. Carrie Taylor of Marysville also disagrees with the vote. She had hoped to be able to treat her twin 8-year-old boys Landon and Logan, both of whom have autism, with medical marijuana therapies.
The boys have severe anxiety and are subject to self-injury. At one point, one of her sons was harming himself up to 370 times per day by scratching, hitting himself in the head, banging his head against a door, kneeing himself in the head, and biting himself.
Landon and Logan are receiving behavioral therapy and have been treated with dozens of medications including Ritalin and Adderall. Both drugs are stimulants that made the boys even more aggressive.
“I just want to improve their quality of life in any way that I can,” Taylor said. “They’re talking about the possible side effects of medical marijuana. They’re afraid, but they’re willing to load my kids with amphetamines.”
The Ohio Medical Cannabis Cultivators Association said that the board’s decision will harm patients, noting that 10 states allow the medicinal use of marijuana to treat anxiety and 22 permit its use for autism.
Ohioans will have another opportunity to ask for the addition of more qualifying conditions during the next period to submit petitions beginning November 1 and continuing through December 31. But the board has indicated a reluctance to add any more conditions at all, believing that state law does not allow them to remove a condition once it has been added, even if later research shows medical marijuana is not effective.
The board has also expressed reservations about adding conditions because it does not believe it has the authority to restrict use to adults and has concerns about the safety of cannabis for children.