There's still a great divide on how doctors in Ohio view medical marijuana

Posted at 9:20 AM, Nov 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-12 10:32:52-05

Amanda Candow's path to using marijuana for her multiple sclerosis is complicated. She used to be against using any kind of marijuana until she was diagnosed in 2011 and was offered a joint.

"That's how I found out that it actually helped my medical condition," said Candow.

Amanda Candow shows the marijuana she's had to get through back channels to treat her multiple sclerosis.

"Patients tend to be extremely motivated, and completely appropriately, by anecdotal evidence," said Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine's Dr. Ted Parran.

Dr. Parran says doctors should need more medical proof before prescribing any kind of cannabis as a medicine.

One of the barriers to getting that research has been the fact that marijuana is still defined as a Schedule 1 drug, the most dangerous and addictive classification. That's limited how many medical studies have been conducted with marijuana and Dr. Parran says the research that has been done has had limited results.

Candow says she used to be against using marijuana for any reason until she realized it helped alleviate her MS symptoms.

"Many medical breakthroughs were made when someone thought outside the box," said Compassionate Cleveland's Dr. Noah Miller. 

Compassionate Cleveland is made up of a group of doctors preparing the recommend medical marijuana to patients once the state's program goes live. Dr. Miller agrees that more research is necessary, but he plans on recommending medical marijuana to patients once it's available in Ohio.

"I think a lot of physicians were trained that cannabis was evil, not something appropriate to consider for a patient," said Dr. Miller.

Marijuana grows in Agri-Med Ohio's Zanesville facility before it is harvested and processed into medical products.

Still, he says it will probably take a while before medical cannabis has the volume of studies supporting it much of the medical community would require. Even then, he says it'll take more time before the medical community jumps on board.

The major hospital systems in Cleveland, including Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, Case Western Reserve University, and MetroHealth, have all told News 5 that their doctors won't be recommending medical marijuana in any way. 

But the first signs that the moratorium could eventually change have already come from the Food and Drug Administration, which recently approved Epidiolex for patients with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy.

Marijuana plants dry out in Agri-Med Ohio's Zanesville facility before it is processed into medical products.

To do it, the FDA had to redefine Epidiolex, which has a pure CBD in it, from Schedule 1 to Schedule 5. CBD is a part of marijuana that does not make users "high."

"By making it illegal to legal, it powers all the doctors to prescribe this medication," said Cleveland Clinic Neurologist Dr. Moosa Naduvil.

Dr. Naduvil is one of the doctors who will start prescribing Epidiolex.

"The exciting thing about this drug is there is a new molecule that works in a way that is different from many other molecules or many other drugs that are on the market," said Dr. Naduvil.

Patients who think they'd benefit from medical marijuana need to register on a state list, once Ohio opens the registry. After that, doctors approved to recommend medical marijuana can give those patients the proper documentation to purchase medical marijuana from a dispensary.

Epidiolex has pure CBD and proved to be more effective than a placebo at treating two forms of rare and severe epilepsy, pushing the FDA to reduce its scheduling and approve it for doctors to prescribe.

Some doctors in Ohio have already been writing "Affirmative Defense letters" for patients who have had to go out of state to get their medical cannabis. The letters aren't a guaranteed legal defense, but they can explain to the court system that a patient has marijuana for a medical condition. That is expected to stop once Ohio's medical marijuana program goes live.