Could Ohio Add Autism as a Qualifying Condition for Medical Marijuana?

    Updates on the fight to gain access to legal cannabis for autistic adults and children in the state

    As of this writing, twenty-two qualifying conditions for the Ohio Medical Marijuana Program had been approved by the state medical board, with cachexia being added in 2020. Eighteen states currently allow adults and children to use medical marijuana for autism, but Ohio is not one of them. 

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a cannabis-derived drug called Epidiolex. The liquid CBD extract decreases seizures in people with Dravet syndrome or Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (severe forms of epilepsy that are sometimes accompanied by autism. Epidiolex is only available by prescription, and only for these specific conditions.

    The success of these medications has caused many parents to try marijuana and cannabis extracts for seizures, behavioral issues, and other autism-related traits in their children.

    Advocacy

    Since 2017, Autism Alliance of Ohio president Tiffany Carwile has championed the fight for medical cannabis for autism patients in Ohio. Nearly a dozen doctors from across the state validated Carwile’s petitions. Last year, Carwile shared over 560 pages of medical evidence with the Board, only to be denied yet again.  

    The reason, the Board claims, were limitations on pediatric use and inability to remove conditions once approved. Carwile noted that none of the other approved qualifying conditions in Ohio have pediatric restrictions and many of those conditions on the approved list coincide with or relate to autism. 

    View Carwile’s March 23rd, 2021 proponent testimony to the state legislature here.

    On Feb 4th, 2021, a bipartisan effort from Ohio Representatives Juanita Brent and Bill Seitz with 15 cosponsors produced House Bill 60, legislation to authorize the use of medical marijuana for autism spectrum disorder.

    This is Brent’s second try at helping get autism approved. In May 2020, she introduced a similar bill, HB641, that did not receive an official hearing. “Ohio families should not have to move to one of the seventeen other states who already permit autism as a qualifying condition for medical cannabis to comfort their child,” Brent stated in her press release.

    “I’ve had a lot of constituents come to me in my own district, as well as others across the state, with concerns that they need alternatives for their children,” Brent said. “We’re talking about parents trying to help their children out. We have to give them a way to try to medicate their children in a safe manner.”

    Recent Updates

    The medical board voted again in early 2021 to deny petitions for adding autism spectrum disorder, restless leg syndrome, panic disorder with agoraphobia, and spasms to the list of qualifying medical marijuana conditions. Huntington’s disease, terminal illness and spasticity were approved and added in June 2021. Also at the board’s June meeting, the committee indicated there may be another open submission period this year, but have not announced a date for that yet.

    How You Can Help

    The best way you can help voice your support to add Autism Spectrum Disorder as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana in Ohio is to reach out via email to your elected representatives. This petition includes a handy template for sending these types of emails. 

    Read MedicateOH’s previous reporting about Ohio’s journey to approve medical marijuana for autism:

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