Ohio is now taking written comments on the qualifying conditions it is thinking of adding to the medical cannabis program.
Through February 26, residents of Ohio will have a chance to comment on conditions including autism, Huntington’s disease, panic disorder with agoraphobia, restless leg syndrome, spasticity and spasms, and terminal illness.
These public comments will be reviewed by the Medical Marijuana Committee, who is currently reviewing 30 different potential conditions that have been suggested.
More than 30 qualifying conditions were suggested to the committee, but many were rejected, either because they are already allowed, petitions were incomplete, or there was not enough evidence listed from professional studies showing cannabis could help with the condition.
The Medical Marijuana Committee will be reviewing these comments on March 8, looking more deeply into the qualifying conditions they have decided to consider. They will then vote on the next six conditions that will be approved.
Committee members want to learn more about how cannabis can help certain conditions, including Huntington’s disease, which is something they feel lacks supportive, medical studies.
“It is neurodegenerative,” said Dr. Yeshwant P. Reddy, spine physiatrist and pain consultant. “It is genetic and we do not have any treatment whatsoever, which would help this condition. I do think this is a very, very genuine condition which we need to approve.”
Those heading up the comment period would also love to know more about what cannabis can do for restless leg syndrome, a condition that is still very much misunderstood; spasticity and spasms, one of the most-studied cannabis conditions when it comes to seizures, but not so much for less severe conditions; and terminal illness, another area in which cannabis has been shown to provide relief.
At this time, the board will not be hearing from any experts making comments on panic disorder with agoraphobia or autism. They have already heard these arguments, and will be considering what scientists and advocates have brought before them in the past.
The State Takes Public Comments Seriously
This public comment period is significant, as Ohio is known for being very cautious about adding qualified conditions. Usually, they reject all conditions that are presented to them. However, they did accept one qualifying condition in 2020: cachexia, also known as wasting disease.
There are also certain political implications this time around, as the board is still refusing to add autism to the list of those sharing public comment. Many argue that the testimony the board heard in 2019 from Nationwide Children’s Hospital was last-minute.
At the time, the board was informed that cannabis could be harmful to children, and that pharmaceuticals were a better choice. This was presented despite the fact that one of the doctors from Nationwide was involved with trials of Epidiolex, a cannabis-based seizure medication.
So many cannabis advocates are disappointed about autism being left off as a qualifying condition, that a bill was introduced into the state House last week to specifically legalize medical cannabis for autism. If House Bill 60 passes, cannabis will become medically legal for autism even if it is not added now as a new qualifying condition.