Ohio’s First Medical Marijuana Doctors Address Stigmas, Changing Rules

Photo Credit: Kabir Bhatia

Ohio has licensed its first batch of doctors who are permitted to recommend marijuana to patients. One of them is Dr. Noah Miller, a child psychiatrist in Pepper Pike, who can recommend cannabis through his work with a separate clinic run by a colleague, Compassionate Cleveland. Currently, he’s able to write letters confirming that a patient can use medical marijuana.

He says the process to get a Certificate to Recommend was fairly easy. Miller had to complete two hours of continuing education on medical marijuana, then apply through the state medical board’s website using the same portal that manages license renewals.

When evaluating patients, there are several risk factors he watches for. One is cardiovascular health, since people with heart-rhythm issues can be at risk. Another is if a woman is pregnant, since Miller feels the effects of the drug on a fetus have not been defined. Finally, people who have more serious illnesses such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder can be at a higher risk for paranoia or psychotic symptoms stemming from marijuana use.

By the end of summer, patients will be getting a marijuana card from the state – instead of the letter — just before dispensaries are set to open in September. And after that, Miller says physicians will be able to recommend adding to the list of 21 qualifying conditions for getting medical marijuana.

Candidates for inclusion

“A lot of patients that have other forms of anxiety disorders feel that cannabis has been helpful for that. And I do believe there’s some research to support that. Certainly other states that have medical marijuana laws have a more inclusive list of diagnoses.”

Miller adds that Huntington’s disease – a neuro-degenerative disease – is another condition he hopes to have added to the list, especially since ALS, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis are on the list.

The move to license doctors is also being met with concern from some physicians. Miller says some of his colleagues are still concerned that marijuana is addictive, and that’s been a challenge for him.

“In my psychiatric practice, I am counseling young people that are struggling with that. I know that may seem hypocritical on the surface, but teenage marijuana use that’s recreational tends to be higher amount [and] more often. It’s not the same type of pattern of use that someone with a legitimate illness that’s using medical marijuana is experiencing.”

Miller adds that many of his patients are concerned about access to tested marijuana that is safe, since the drug can often be contaminated with mold and spores.