Ohio taking petitions to expand list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana

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The window to petition the state to add new medical marijuana qualifying conditions has reopened through Dec. 31.

Advocates in the past have petitioned for the addition of anxiety, autism spectrum disorder and opioid use disorder to the list of Ohio's 22 qualifying conditions for medicinal cannabis. Those conditions have been previously rejected by a state medical review board, though.

At one time, the board seemed to be in favor of approving anxiety and autism in particular but ultimately sided with officials who swayed their decision to reject them. That includes a doctor from Nationwide Children's Hospital who argued in 2019 that there is little formal research on the effectiveness of marijuana in treating these conditions.

Of course, marijuana is still a federally illegal substance, which inherently prevents research into its possible medical applications, creating a chicken-and-egg problem from a research perspective. This has contributed to disparate views on these conditions — and whether they're appropriate to treat with marijuana — across the country as states set their own rules. Pennsylvania permits both anxiety and autism as qualifying conditions for medical marijuana, for example, while Michigan allows the latter but not the former.

According to guidance from regulators with the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program, a petition will be rejected if the condition has been previously reviewed by the board and rejected, "unless new scientific research that supports the request is offered."

Here are the 22 medical marijuana qualifying conditions in place today: AIDS; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Alzheimer's disease; cachexia; cancer; chronic traumatic encephalopathy; Crohn's disease; epilepsy or another seizure disorder; fibromyalgia; glaucoma; hepatitis C; inflammatory bowel disease; multiple sclerosis; pain that is either chronic and severe or intractable; Parkinson's disease; positive status for HIV; post-traumatic stress disorder; sickle cell anemia; spinal cord disease or injury; Tourette syndrome; traumatic brain injury; and ulcerative colitis.

Go here to learn more about filing a petition.

While an underlying motivation of the medical marijuana program is providing access to medicine, the addition of anxiety and autism conditions in particular could be potentially huge for the surrounding industry, which continues to grow and is performing generally well amid the pandemic.

The allowance of telemedicine options for physician appointments, curbside pickup at dispensaries, and a tweaking of how the state calculates how much marijuana patients are allowed to buy in 90- and 45-day fill periods — which Ohio determines through a weird system based on "daily units" — have all contributed to growing patient rolls and increasing sales. Retail prices have been coming down, too. By the end of summer, average weekly statewide retail sales had grown to approximately $5 million.

As of Oct. 26, there has been $227.9 million in total product sales since the first dispensaries opened in January 2019. There was about $56 million in sales in all of last year, so $172 million in sales (or 75% of all sales so far) have occurred in 2020.

There is approximately 140,400 registered patients — 18% of which have yet to buy anything, possibly because they don't live nearby a dispensary — today and 662 physicians certified to recommend medical marijuana.

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