State Regulators in Ohio voted on Wednesday to reject petitions that would have added autism and anxiety as conditions that qualify a patient to use medical marijuana. The Ohio State Medical Board voted to approve, however, a request to add patients diagnosed with a chronic wasting syndrome known as cachexia to the state’s medicinal cannabis program.
Wednesday’s votes are consistent with the recommendations of a medical board committee issued last month. The board also voted not to include autism and anxiety when they first considered petitions to add the conditions to the state program last year.
The board received a total of 136 public comments on the proposals to include the three conditions, including requests to reject the addition of anxiety and autism submitted by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, and the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association.
“The inclusion of autism and anxiety as conditions has the potential to negatively impact the health and well being of thousands of children in Ohio,” wrote Sarah Kincaid of the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association. “There is little rigorous evidence that marijuana or its derivatives is of benefit for patients with autism and anxiety, but there is a substantial association between cannabis use and the onset or worsening of several psychiatric conditions.”
Carrie Taylor, an Ohio mom who has twin sons with autism, was disappointed last year when the medical board rejected the petition to add the condition to the state’s medical marijuana program. She has since redirected her efforts to the legalization of recreational cannabis in Ohio, saying she does not believe the board will ever add autism.
“Our voice is not being heard right now,” Taylor said. “These doctors have this thought in their mind, and they’re obviously set in stone where they stand. We’re not trying to give them something that’s not legalized with other medical purposes.”
Board Approves Adding Cachexia
The Ohio State Medical Board voted to approve the addition of cachexia to the state’s list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana at its meeting on Wednesday. The chronic wasting syndrome is often associated with other serious medical conditions including cancer, HIV and AIDS, and kidney disease. James Michael Weeks, a Cincinnati internal medicine physician who petitioned the board to add cachexia to the program, said that the consequences of cachexia can be dire.
“Eventually it becomes generalized weakness, and then falls and a gradual decline,” said Weeks. “And of course, once people have no muscle mass left, eventually they die.”
Before voting to add cachexia to the medical marijuana program, board president Dr. Michael Schottenstein said that patients with the condition need to be encouraged to eat.
“Eating is a source of enjoyment for patients and it’s a means to socialize with family and friends,” he said. “Patients socially isolate when they can’t eat.”
After the vote on Wednesday, Weeks said that he was pleased with the board’s decision, noting that he has had patients with cachexia come to him for a medical marijuana recommendation in the past but he has had to turn them away.
“It’s always slightly awkward when you get a referral and you tell the patient you don’t qualify,” Weeks said.
With the addition of cachexia, Ohio now has nearly two dozen conditions that qualify a patient to use medical marijuana, including cancer, epilepsy, traumatic brain injury, and multiple sclerosis.