Legislation being considered by the Ohio House would add autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as a qualifying medical condition for the state’s Medical Marijuana Control Program.

House Bill 60 has bipartisan support, including primary sponsorship from Democratic Rep. Juanita Brent and Republican Rep. William Seitz, as well as 16 cosponsors.

During an unsuccessful effort to add ASD to the list of qualifying conditions last year in Ohio, proponents said allowing legal access to cannabis would help those with autism alleviate certain symptoms of ASD that other forms of medicine prescribed by doctors have fallen short on.

“I am the mother of a 15-year-old with severe autism who has been using medical cannabis successfully in [Pennsylvania] for four years,” Erica Daniels said in a March 2021 testimony to the Ohio House Health Committee. Daniels is an autism advocate and founder of Hope Grows for Autism.

“There is a body of research to support this in addition to empirical data and testimony of thousands of parents and self-advocates,” she said. “Without medical cannabis, my son would be in an institution right now.”

Focusing on three clinical trials from 2016 that examined the effects of medical cannabis on individuals with ASD, an October 2019 article published by peer-reviewed journal BMC Psychiatry stated, “Results from these groundbreaking clinical trials have the potential to help build support for evidence-based recommendations regarding medical cannabis use amongst patients with ASD.”

The article also stated additional clinical studies are needed to build upon existing evidence that medical cannabis could help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with ASD.

In Ohio, the State Medical Board approved adding Huntington’s disease, terminal illness and spasticity to the list of qualifying conditions in 2021, but board members voted to reject expanding the list to include ASD, restless leg syndrome, panic disorder with agoraphobia, and spasms, The Columbus Dispatch reported.

Each year, the board accepts petitions from the public for new conditions. Among several proposed conditions for 2022 are anxiety, depression and ASD.

RELATED: Ohio Receives Petitions to Add Several New Qualifying Conditions to Medical Cannabis Program

While H.B. 60 focuses on autism, a separate medical cannabis expansion bill that the Ohio Senate approved in December aims to allow physicians to recommend cannabis for any medical condition. That legislation is currently in the House Government Oversight Committee.

Established in 2016 via H.B. 523, Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Control program originally specified 21 qualifying conditions. In addition to the three conditions the State Medical Board added last year, it also added cachexia, also known as wasting syndrome, in 2020.

The current list of 25 qualifying conditions includes:

AIDSAlzheimer’s diseaseAmyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease)CachexiaCancerChronic traumatic encephalopathyCrohn’s diseaseEpilepsy or another seizure disorderFibromyalgiaGlaucomaHepatitis CHuntington’s diseaseInflammatory bowel diseaseMultiple sclerosisPain that is either chronic and severe or intractableParkinson’s diseasePositive status for HIVPost-traumatic stress disorderSickle cell anemiaSpasticitySpinal cord disease or injuryTerminal illnessTourette syndromeTraumatic brain injuryUlcerative colitis

House members are scheduled to consider adding ASD through H.B. 60 this week.

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