COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio lawmakers on Tuesday introduced legislation legalizing medication derived from a specific strain of marijuana that is used to treat seizures.
House Bill 33 would allow Ohio physicians to prescribe an oil infused with a marijuana strain rich in cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-psychoactive ingredient in cannabis; and low in tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the compound that produces a high. One such strain, nicknamed Charlotte’s Web, has become sought-after by parents to reduce the frequency of intense seizures in their children.
Seizure patients would be able to legally possess and use an extract of the strain and to participate in clinical trials for cannabis.
The legislation makes the plant available to doctors at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, and University Hospitals Case Medical Center and Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital.
Bill sponsor Rep. Wes Retherford, a Hamilton Republican, said the legislation is narrowly targeted to help families battling epilepsy and other seizure disorders. Retherford said his friend travels to another state to get the medication for his young daughter, who is now able to have a conversation, learn the alphabet and go about life without as much interruption from seizures.
“Everything I’ve seen and read about the use of cannabinoid oil for childhood epilepsy is it seems to have a positive effect on families that use it,” Retherford said. “That in and of itself is worthy of having the discussion in Ohio.”
Retherford said he does not favor legalizing marijuana for wider medical or recreational use, in part because the effects have not been widely studied. The bill would allow university and children’s hospitals to research marijuana for medical purposes, positioning Ohio to be a resource for other states weighing legalization.
Democratic Rep. John Rogers of Mentor-on-the-Lake signed on as a joint sponsor. The list of co-sponsors includes members from both sides of the aisle in the GOP-controlled House: Republican Reps. Andy Thompson of Marietta, Terry Boose of Norwalk, Kristina Roegner of Hudson, and Andrew Brenner of Powell; Democratic Reps. Michael Sheehy of Toledo, Heather Bishoff of Blacklick and Michele Lepore-Hagan of Youngstown.
“This isn’t a Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal issue,” Retherford said. “This is a issue of a naturally occurring, non-addictive, non-hallucinogenic medication that can possibly make the lives of thousands of children in the state of Ohio better.”
Florida passed similar legislation last year. Ohio would be the 12th state to legalize low THC, high CBD products for medical use, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Twenty three states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for wider medical use.