Chris Nani, OCBMAGONLINE contributing writer
The State Medical Board of Ohio started accepting petitions November 1,2018 to add new conditions to the list of conditions that can be treated with medical marijuana. Currently, there are only twenty-one conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder, that Ohio recognizes. The board will accept petitions until the end of December for new conditions.
Petitions must include: medical or scientific evidence relating to the condition; if conventional medicine is insufficient; evidence medical marijuana helps alleviate or treat the condition; form of consumption; and letters of recommendation from physicians with knowledge of the condition. Petitions may be filed on online at the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program’s webpage. If the petition does not meet all of the criteria mentioned on the website specifically, the board will not consider the petition. The board will review all qualifying petitions starting January 1, 2019 and must complete the process by the end of June 2019 as mandated by statute.
If the petition is approved, it will automatically become an eligible condition. However, if the petition is rejected, the board will not consider the petition from the same individual for the same condition unless new scientific research is included to increase efficiency in the decision-making process for new conditions.
Roughly 3,500,000 Ohioans qualify through the current twenty-one conditions for medical marijuana cards. That number is expected to increase exponentially if conditions such as ‘Opioid Abuse’ and ‘Addiction’ are added to the list. In 2015, Ohio providers wrote almost ten million opioid pain reliever prescriptions which directly correlated to the increase of deaths yearly from opioid related overdose deaths to 2,296. Prior to the surge in prescriptions, there were less than 500 yearly deaths.
It is likely the board will be extremely sympathetic to ‘Opioid Abuse’ and possibly ‘Addiction’ as well when reviewing qualifying conditions. Because the opioid epidemic has had such a devastating impact in Ohio such as costing Ohio $2 billion in 2012 alone and $5.4 million each day in medical and work loss costs, it is a safe bet the board will be seeking ways to reduce state costs. According to the Ohio Department of Health, since 2011 opioid overdose deaths have reached an eight-year low and offering marijuana as a substitute would further lower the amount of overdose deaths.
There is a growing body of evidence that marijuana is a healthy substitute for opioids. The Rockefeller Institute of Government recently reported states with medical marijuana prescribe patients 14.4% fewer opioids. Plus, marijuana has been shown to be a substitute for opioids because it relieves pain and is less likely to be abused compared to drugs such as fentanyl or oxycodone. Tied in with ‘Opioid Abuse’, patients that have before relayed on powerful opioids to relieve pain from serious accidents may soon have a healthier, less addictive, and safer method for treatment.
There are over three-hundred physicians certified to recommend medical marijuana in Ohio but they are currently being delayed from prescribing recommendations to patients because the state has placed a hold on the patient registry until Ohio’s marijuana industry is closer to starting. For prospective medical marijuana patients, now is the time to start seeing your physician still.
Although your physician will not be able to prescribe medical marijuana yet, Ohio requires patients to have a “bona fide” relationship with their physician before being prescribed medical marijuana. Unlike other states where you can pay a quick fee and receive a recommendation, Ohio patients must have a history with their physician.
The physician must determine if marijuana will help with their condition. If the condition was diagnosed by another physician, the new physician must obtain the patient’s medical records and determine the diagnosis is still valid. Once a recommendation has been made, patients will pay $50 to register and receive a medical marijuana card while caregivers will pay $25.
Patients may also be uncomfortably surprised by prices when dispensaries do open as well. Due to the immense amount of regulations and compliance requirements in Ohio’s medical marijuana program, a marijuana product that may cost $15 could easily be over $20. However, some regulations have been praised as positive such as requiring packaging to separate marijuana into daily dosing amounts.
Other more onerous regulations such as security systems and the upkeep they bring will cause the price of marijuana to initially go up. The silver lining is that, across the board, prices will go down. Economics dictate that competition will lower cost for consumers and within the marijuana field that could be expected in as little as a few months of operation.
A final note, with marijuana soon being sold throughout the state, any person regardless of their cardholder status found high while driving will be charged with driving under the influence by law enforcement. If arrested for suspected DUI, officers could require urine and blood samples if the situation is serious. Officers will more than likely however conduct a field-sobriety test and base their judgement based on the outcome.
Additionally, Ohio medical marijuana patients while they will be permitted to carry up to eight ounces of marijuana; cardholders will not be able to carry drug paraphernalia such as pipes or bongs. Under Ohio law, it is still a misdemeanor to carry either because smoking flower or marijuana is still illegal. Ohio does permit vaping which will likely be the most common form of consumption in Ohio until regulators loosen some of their restrictions.
Ohio’s medical marijuana program although it started off rocky will have a chance to redeem itself by expanding its conditions. The board is currently accepting new conditions for the next two months and will be reviewing all request that meet its standards outlined right above the submission link. It is extremely likely Ohio will add at least a few new conditions to its list to allow a larger population to receive treatment. Especially with Michigan’s recent election that legalized adult-use cannabis, the board will be looking for ways to keep its medical marijuana industry competitive and alive with its neighboring state only a two hour drive away with less rigorous requirements for patients seeking treatment.