Ohio’s medical cannabis law went into effect in September 2016. But the program’s implementation has faced a number of delays and setbacks. As a result, the state only began issuing licenses in September of this year. So far, Ohio has approved 300 doctors to recommend medical cannabis program. Regulators process and approve more applications every month. But the thousands of doctors who work for some of the state’s largest healthcare providers, including MetroHealth, University Hospitals, and the Cleveland Clinic, will not be able to recommend medical cannabis to their patients, whether or not they obtain a license to do.
The three northeast Ohio-based healthcare providers have all issued statements announcing their policy to prohibit their doctors from making medical cannabis recommendations. The announcements came shortly after an Ohio medical marijuana meeting last week in Cleveland.
Each healthcare network cited a different concern for their policy stance, according to Cleveland.com. University Hospitals spokesperson Katelyn McCarthy cited “the discrepancy between state and federal law with regard to the legality of marijuana use” as the reason UH doctors are barred from recommending medical cannabis on any UH campus. University Hospitals employs more than 4,000 providers.
Carolyn Deming Glaviano, a Cleveland Clinic spokesperson, cited medical cannabis medication’s lack of FDA approval as the reason behind the ban. She touted the Food and Drug Administration’s approval process as “the most effective way to ensure the safety, efficacy, and purity of medications provided to patients across Ohio.” Furthermore, Glaviano said it would take regulatory approval for Cleveland Clinic to consider involvement with medical cannabis treatments. She did not, however, reference the FDA’s recent approval of a cannabis-derived epilepsy medication Epidiolex, which is now available by prescription in all 50 states. Cleveland Clinic employs about 4,000 doctors.
Spokesperson Tina Shaerban-Arundel said that MetroHealth’s policy has always been to prohibit staff doctors from providing medical cannabis recommendations. About 650 doctors work for MetroHealth.
Ohio health officials and regulators anticipate that at full capacity, the state’s program could enroll more than 200,000 patients. In the first two years, the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy predicts between 4,600 and 51,000 patients will register. At the moment, just 300 doctors can provide care for them. And the majority of those doctors are private practitioners, which limits patient access. Private practitioners are more likely to be out-of-network for most patients, requiring expensive visits to the doctor’s office to discuss medical cannabis treatments. Furthermore, restricting the range of care doctors can provide at world-class healthcare institutions like the Cleveland Clinic denies patients their full range of choices.
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