Qualified patients seeking medical marijuana to treat their diseases or medical conditions may be able to obtain the treatments they desire by scheduling an appointment at a newly-established medical marijuana recommendation office in Waverly.

Pike County physician, Dr. Sean Stiltner, has a Certificate to Recommend (CTR) from the State Medical Board of Ohio. Stiltner’s CTR allows him to recommend medical marijuana to qualifying patients at his office located at 810 West 2nd Street in Waverly. Stiltner opened the office on Feb. 19.

Medical marijuana recommendations are now available in Ohio due to House Bill 523, which became effective on Sept. 8, 2016, thereby legalizing medical marijuana in Ohio.

The Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program allows “people with certain medical conditions, upon the recommendation of an Ohio-licensed physician certified by the State Medical Board, to purchase and use medical marijuana”

“Only patients with one of the following medical conditions may currently participate in Ohio’s medical marijuana program: AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy or another seizure disorder, fibromyalgia, glaucoma, hepatitis C, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, pain that is either chronic and severe or intractable, Parkinson’s disease, positive status for HIV, post-traumatic stress disorder, sickle cell anemia, spinal cord disease or injury, Tourette’s syndrome, traumatic brain injury, and ulcerative colitis,” according to the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program website, www.medicalmarijuana.ohio.gov .

“The first step is, if (a patient) decides (he or she) wants medical marijuana, they have to find a physician with a Certificate to Recommend,” Stiltner said. “Once they find that physician, then they have to have an in-person visit to that physician’s office, and then the patient and the physician both have to register in the state database. Once the physician has uploaded the patient’s (information) into the state database and with the Pharmacy Board, the physician puts whether or not the patient meets the requirements (for obtaining medical marijuana).”

If a patient meets the requirements for obtaining medical marijuana, “the patient has to pay a fee to the State Pharmacy Board and then they receive a go ahead for a ‘quote-unquote’ medical marijuana card,” said Stiltner. “”Once that’s loaded into the state databank, then the dispensaries have access to that databank to know who is eligible to receive medical marijuana. Then the patient goes to the dispensary.”

A dispensary will provide patients with “either what the physician has recommended or what is appropriate for the disease process that they have,” according to Stiltner.

House Bill 523 “prohibits the cultivation of medical marijuana for personal, family, or household use” and “expressly prohibits the use of medical marijuana by smoking or combustion, but allows for vaporization.”

“Currently, the only (form) that dispensaries are releasing at this point in time, and this has been in the mainstream news, is the plant material itself, which can be vaporized,” Stiltner said.

According to Stiltner, additional forms of medical marijuana, such as creams, edibles, pills and capsules will be available in the future.

“They’re not available right now in the State of Ohio due to making sure the purity standards are up-to-date,” Stiltner said.

House Bill 523 “prohibits a physician from personally furnishing or otherwise dispensing medical marijuana.”

“We are only recommending to the Pharmacy Board that the patient meets the qualifications for medical marijuana; that’s all the doctor does,” said Stiltner “We don’t give a prescription.”

“A patient has to provide proof that they have the medical condition and that they’ve tried traditional treatments in the past before we look at alternative treatment (medical marijuana), “ Stiltner said.

House Bill 523 “specifies that plant material have a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content of not more than 35 percent, while extracts have a THC content of not more than 70 percent.”

“Yes, there will be THC and there is CBD (cannabinoid) and the other things that are in marijuana (that will be present) in medical marijuana,” said Stiltner. “Anybody who takes in THC can become intoxicated. That’s why, at the dispensary and at the physician’s office, (patients) are warned about the possible side effects that can come from utilizing medical marijuana.”

According to the Legislative Services Commission’s Bill Analysis as reported by S.Government Oversight and Reform, “Current Ohio and federal law classify marijuana as a schedule I controlled substance, making its distribution, including by prescription, illegal. However, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 24 states allow for comprehensive public medical marijuana and cannabis programs. Since 2009, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has encouraged federal prosecutors not to prosecute those who distribute marijuana for medical purposes in accordance with state law. In 2013, the DOJ updated its policy, noting that it will defer the right to challenge state laws legalizing marijuana for medical purposes so long as the states strongly enforce their own laws.”

“Although marijuana is classified as a schedule I controlled substance, for the purposes of this bill, medical marijuana is a schedule II controlled substance,” the Bill Analysis said. “According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, a schedule I controlled substance has all of the following characteristics: no currently accepted medical use, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and a high potential for abuse. A schedule II controlled substance is considered to have a high potential for abuse.”

“One of the biggest things I want to do is educate people that this is an alternative therapy and not something that physicians are trying to get patients addicted to another drug,” said Stiltner. “It’s not what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to get them something that is safer, I feel safer at this point, from what we know, safer than narcotics.”

“It’s all dependent upon each patient and what their disease process is as to how effective the medication is,” Stiltner said. “It’s being presented as a natural alternative. The thing that’s impressive about it is, there’s not very many cases of documented overdose deaths with marijuana.”

“Being addictive is one of the questions that physicians have to ask,” said Stiltner. “And if someone has a high propensity towards addiction, not dependency (but) addiction, then we try to refrain from giving them medical marijuana.”

“An in-person visit with a certified physician is required at least once per year,” according to the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program. “The physician will need the patient’s valid Ohio driver’s license, a valid Ohio identification card issued by the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV), or a valid United States passport ... A certified physician can recommend up to a 90-day supply of medical marijuana with three refills (totaling up to a 360-day supply if appropriate for the patient) ... Only patients with an active registry card, an active recommendation, and their associated government-issued ID can purchase medical marijuana.”

18 dispensaries with certificates of operation have now opened in Ohio, according to a May 22 update by the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program.

For information about obtaining medical marijuana, scheduling an appointment, appointment fees and deposits, requesting medical records, registering as a patient, required forms and more, visit Stiltner’s medical marijuana recommendation office website at https://southernohiogreenmed.com or call 740-777-6610.

For more information about medical marijuana, call the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program’s toll-free helpline at 1-833-4OH-MMCP or 1-833-464-6627, or visit www.medicalmarijuana.ohio.gov .

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