Petitions seek to expand list of conditions approved for medical marijuana in Ohio

Even before medical marijuana is available to treat the 21 conditions already approved by the state, Ohioans are asking for more ailments to be added to the list.

One of the first to file when the state started accepting petitions Nov. 1 was Kenneth Cardwell of Troy. He wants the State Medical Board of Ohio to expand the list to include neuropathy.

“The pain level is so strong, it’s unreal,” said Cardwell, who suffers from both fibromyalgia and neuropathy. “There’s nothing to describe what nerve pain feels like until you have it.”

Cardwell, 60, likened his pain in his back, shoulders, knees and elbows to “being bruised everywhere” but unable to heal.

“I tried other things,” he said. “But the THC in edibles drastically reduced the pain.”

Cardwell and two other Miami Valley residents are among seven Ohioans who filed petitions seeking to add qualifying conditions to the list.

“The petition window is open through the end of December,” said A.J. Groeber, executive director of the Ohio state medical board. “We encourage individuals to review the current list of conditions and the required information for a petition prior to their submission.”

The conditions listed on the petitions so far include severe arthritis, liver failure and interstitial cystitis.

It’s unclear how closely the board will scrutinize some of the maladies submitted. The 21 qualifying conditions already include “pain that is either chronic and severe or intractable.”

Any petition seeking to add a broad category of diseases or conditions will not be considered, according to the program rules. Moving forward, any petition for a condition that is reviewed and rejected by the board won’t be considered again unless accompanied by new scientific research supporting the request.

Dr. F. Stuart Leeds plans to file two petitions in early December. Leeds, a Wright State University assistant professor of family medicine, has been gathering data and preparing research to ask the board to allow opioid use disorder and anxiety disorder to be treated with medical cannabis.

While the data is limited, Leeds said recent studies have found a growing body of evidence showing states with medical marijuana programs have had a reduction in opioid prescriptions, a decrease in overdoses cases in emergency rooms and fewer opioid deaths.

“So what we have is a lot of really promising — if preliminary — epidemiological data that suggests that medical marijuana has an impact on several different touch points of the opioid problem,” Leeds said.

Leeds said some of the most telling research has come from his patients, some of whom are dealing with opioid addiction.

“Patients have been conducting their own self-experiments on a variety of street drugs for decades,” said Leeds, who practices and teaches family medicine. “They know more about what marijuana will do for their chronic pain and addiction problems than we do.”

Brad Lander, a clinical psychologist in the department of addiction medicine at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, is skeptical. He said marijuana impairs judgment, motor control and memory.

“Patients smoking marijuana don’t have the real motivation to do therapy to maintain long-term recovery or improve their lives,” Lander said.

Opioid use disorder is currently a qualifying condition in three other medical marijuana states: New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Cannabis products were supposed to become available Sept. 8, but the date has been pushed back because of delays in the application and certification process for companies seeking to grow, test and sell marijuana products.

Joni Kreitzer of Dayton submitted a petition to add severe arthritis to the list.

Kreitzer, 60, operated heavy machinery for 20 years, running scrapers and a piece of equipment crews called a “Barney Rubble-izer” that broke up chunks of highway.

“It just beat the daylights out of you,” she said, describing the toll on her body. “I ran the roughest equipment they had.”

Her left hip was replaced in 2013, and now her right hip, a shoulder and both knees are in so much pain she says she can’t work — or rest.

“I’m not a wimp. But this has really upset me,” she said. “All I want is to sleep.”

Kreitzer said she has tried exercise and pain pills, but she would rather not take prescription opioids.

“It’s at the point the only way I get any sleep at all is with marijuana. Period,” she said. “I wrote to them to let them know. What else am I supposed to do? There’s no other choice.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

How to file

Instructions for filing petitions are available on the state’s Medical Marijuana Control Program website: Petitions will be accepted through the end of December.

Ohio has approved 21 conditions that would allow people to purchase and possess pot under the medical marijuana law. They are:

  • AIDS
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • 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's syndrome
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Ulcerative colitis

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