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Why Ohioans with Autism Lack Access to Medical Cannabis (And What You Can Do About It)

Why Ohioans with Autism Lack Access to Medical Cannabis (And What You Can Do About It)

If you have epilepsy, PTSD or another qualifying condition such as chronic or intractable pain, you may be approved for your medical marijuana card in Ohio. But many patients and parents of autism patients wonder, “Why isn’t autism included as a qualifying condition for getting a medical marijuana card?”

The Ohio Medical Marijuana Program doesn’t include it, but eighteen other states currently allow both adults and children to use medical marijuana for autism. 

A cannabis-derived pharmaceutical drug Epidiolex made using liquid CBD extract was approved in 2018. It treats seizures in people with Dravet syndrome or Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. Epidiolex is only available by prescription, and only for these epilepsy-related specific conditions.

Since Epidiolex became available, parents of some patients have tried cannabis extracts for seizures, behavioral issues, and other autism-related traits in their children and have had tremendous success. 

Potential Legislation

A bipartisan bill was introduced by Ohio Representatives Juanita Brent and Bill Seitz in February 2021. Fifteen other representatives also signed on to cosponsor House Bill 60, which would approve the use of medical marijuana for autism spectrum disorder.

“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 said.

“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,” she explained. “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.”

Advocacy

Autism Alliance of Ohio president Tiffany Carwile was among three proponent testimonies to the state on March 23rd, when the bill came up for consideration in the Ohio House Health Committee. Since 2017, Carwile has been fighting for medical cannabis for autism patients in Ohio. Nearly a dozen doctors from across the state have validated Carwile’s petitions. Last year, Carwile shared over 560 pages of medical evidence with the Board, only to be denied yet again. Carwile said that as a mother of an autistic son here in Ohio, she began research on medical marijuana as a potential treatment for those diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder(ASD). Her son Jaxsyn was diagnosed in April of 2016, at only two years old, with severe low-functioning Autism.

Similar to Dravet Syndrome, in addition to developmental disability, many with ASD live with comorbid conditions and core symptoms including intellectual disability, self-injurious behaviors, aggression, pain, SPD, apraxia, dyspraxia, epilepsy/seizures, mood/sleeping disorders, gastrointestinal/feeding disorders, inflammation, oxidative stress, as well as immune dysfunctions.

Like Dravet, autism is classified as a spectrum condition. Autism patients possess an extremely complex set of medical conditions that are unique to each individual diagnosed. Of the existing qualifying conditions in Ohio, many of them are comorbidly implicated within autism.

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. 

If you have a qualifying condition related to autism, such as PTSD or epilepsy, you may qualify now for your card. Reach out to one of our DocMJ physicians today to find out more. 

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Author: Gabrielle Dion Visca

Gabrielle has been writing and editing professionally for the medical and wellness industries for more than 20 years. She currently writes articles about medical marijuana for DocMJ and is the founder of the Ohio cannabis journalism non-profit, MedicateOH.