Cannabis Conundrum

Significant progress has been made in restoring the status of Cannabis as a potent therapeutic herb in the doctor’s bag, but that doesn’t mean they are any more comfortable writing that script.

Medical marijuana is now legal in 23 states and the District of Columbia, but the path to utilization often remains a maze of red tape. Rules and regulations differ by state, and the federal government hasn’t budged on legalization. That creates barriers for patients in need.

The fact that each of these 23 states and the federal government all have very different laws on marijuana regulation makes things confusing. It’s important to cut through the confusion so that those who need marijuana for medicinal purposes can better understand its uses as well as its drawbacks.

When used properly under a trained physician’s careful guidance, medicinal marijuana can work wonders. But the trouble begins when some people fake their ailments because they want to enjoy the euphoric sensations that result from the THC content of marijuana.

So while using marijuana at moderate levels is generally safe for the vast majority of adults, consumers also need to realize that many people claim scientists still lack a full understanding of marijuana’s long-term effects.

Marijuana is most often used to treat pain, but it can also be prescribed for other ailments, such as muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis; nausea from cancer chemotherapy; and poor appetite and weight loss caused by chronic illness such as HIV, seizure disorders, and Crohn’s disease. Beyond dealing with the ailments themselves, patients who could otherwise benefit from medical marijuana face a number of issues:

LACK OF INSURANCE COVERAGE

Insurance companies refuse to pay for drugs that have not been officially approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for distribution in prescription form. That can create significant financial issues for medicinal marijuana patients.

IMPORTANT RESEARCH REMAINS STALLED

American scientists have expressed frustration that their research is hampered by the fact that Cannabis remains a Schedule I drug under federal law. Fear of prosecution prevents formal, wide-scale studies on the apparent effectiveness of marijuana in treating specific diseases. The Brookings Institution released a research report last October that echoed that point, and recommended a more comprehensive set of policy reforms that would liberate the medical community in its pursuit of marijuana research.

BUREAUCRACY PREVENTS VITAL TREATMENT

A variety of bureaucratic road bumps and roadblocks have caused countless people to be denied urgent medicinal marijuana treatments that might help them. As a society, we have essentially allowed the government to fail the ailing people among us. Even though marijuana laws have relaxed in some states, many people still have a negative view of the plant. Ultimately, the possession and use of marijuana for medical purposes often becomes a personal decision. Just as no one should ever be forced to consume alcohol, society should never require people to use marijuana. That said, consumers and patients everywhere should have a right to learn about and benefit from the many proven medicinal properties of marijuana.

James W. Forsythe, MD, an integrative medical oncologist, is the author of more than 20 books, including his most recent, Stoned: The Truth About Medical Marijuana and Hemp Oil.

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