I recently wrote a piece on my patient story detailing my journey to treating Crohn’s Disease with Cannabis. I am grateful to those who felt comfortable sharing the article with people they know. Soon after it was posted people asked me things like, “How did you get your Medical Card?” …“What states allow Medical Marijuana?” …“Were you scared to publish that?”
I wanted to write a general overview of the experience to spark the discussion of using Medical Cannabis to treat diseases like Crohn’s. I would now like to try and answer some of those questions, fill in some gaps, and possibly create new questions. This is a complex issue but the main point I always share with others is that; everything is connected.
Cannabis benefits, production, consumption, and policy are not isolated issues in our society; they are interwoven and interact with many political and social factors.
When examining this topic I personally like to focus on the people. Policy is vital to understanding the issue but it often makes people, and their attention, shut down. I plan to discuss how I’ve come to understand this issue through personal experiences and how I have witnessed the impact on patients and our society.
First, we should start with the definition of Cannabis. Cannabis sativa comes from a family of plants which includes hemp. Let’s think of Hemp and Cannabis like cousins. Cannabis (Marijuana) is a separate plant that produces flowering on the plant which contains several natural chemical compounds. Two major compounds being, THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). The flower/bud can be smoked, eaten, or made into oils and extracts. Hemp is a tall plant with long, thick stalks that does not have flowering or psychoactive agents. Hemp is a sustainable industrial crop that can be made into many everyday products. Until recently, it was illegal in our country to cultivate either plant; but purchasing and utilizing Hemp products that are made in other countries is no problem.
It is important to understand that these plants have only been federally prohibited for less than one hundred years. If you look further back in history, these two plants were widely used by many civilizations (including our own) for medicinal and industrial uses up until prohibition.
There were industries like the Cotton, Lumber, and Pharmaceutical Sectors that did not want to see these plants, with many positive functions, get in the way of their profits. So, they lobbied government officials to have them declare that Cannabis and Hemp plants are harmful to the public, and soon “Reefer Madness” was born. This led to about seventy years of propaganda fueled by the Drug War, scaring people into forgetting about all the benefits that Cannabis and Hemp plants provide.
Prohibition laid the ground work for health care to transform into a system that depends and profits off of people being unhealthy.
I encourage anyone reading this to do your own research, the evidence is out there. No one is trying to hide it anymore.
All of this has frustrated many citizens and there have been hundreds of campaigns over the decades to challenge the law. Little change was seen until the last five to ten years when a huge wave of momentum appeared. Medical Cannabis Programs in states like California, Nevada, and Colorado were put into place and it seemed that hope was on the horizon. Fifteen years later we have twenty four Medical Cannabis registering states.
This has allowed patients with debilitating conditions the access to safer treatment alternatives and they are improving. Cancer patients are surviving, chronic pain sufferers have an opiate alternative, seizures are bring reduced or eliminated, PTSD patients are given a break from their trauma, and I could keep going.
This is inspiring news and representative of significant victories, but there is still more to be done. In the states that do not offer Medical Cannabis, citizens are left to suffer without knowledge of another option or simply have to stay on prescription medication that can hinder their quality of life, or they can uproot their lives to flee to a state that offers Medical Cannabis. The term “marijuana refugees” is becoming a reality for so many families in this country.
I am fortunate to live in Michigan, which has a Medical Cannabis program, so I am able to treat my Crohn’s Disease without having to leave everything I know. I was able to take my medical records to a certifying doctor, fill out the paper work, receive my prescription, and have places to access medicine all in my own state. This is the painless process that a person who is suffering daily should be able to experience.
The ability to legally choose my course of treatment currently comes with, what some would call, a “catch”. I am pursuing a career in the human service field and am being told that an agency that collects federal funding, even in a medical state, will not hire me. This does not apply to every agency, but to a large number of them. When I hear this I just think of how poorly I functioned in my daily life, and as an employee, when I was on my old cocktail of medications that included daily antibiotics, anti-depressants and heavy sleeping pills, like Ambien.
It simply confuses me that employers and our federal government are willing to accept and honor a doctor’s prescription for any opiate or narcotic, but not a doctor’s prescription for medical marijuana.
I understand that under federal law cannabis is still illegal, but I also understand the state laws, and this situation is putting patients all over the country in an impossible predicament. It is time to not only change the laws to allow more to access this medication, but to also change the negative stigma associated with doing so.
There have been recent comments made by governmental officials displaying progress in the public opinion towards Cannabis. That is wonderful, but we need real action now, not just comments.
If you have not yet seen a child suffering from hundreds of seizures a day, take Cannabis oil and instantly find relief, I urge you to do look up a video or article; there are hundreds to choose from.
This is a bigger issue than “that kid down the street that just wants to get high”.
A stereotype only tells one version of a story.
So here we are, deep in the connections between patient well-being, treatment in the workforce, lifestyle changes, and policy shifts. Which are only a few of the factors involved.
The Cannabis Movement impacts this country’s health care, economy, regulation system, environmental crisis, politics and more. It is important to know the facts on this evolving issue as it takes its place in our society.
Things are changing quickly but it is vital to understand that just because a law is passed, that does not mean the issue is fully resolved. It ripples throughout all facets of our society and we can adjust easier to these changes with open education and ongoing conversations.
Let us decide to face this change and engage in the current state of social evolution, in whatever way you see fit.
Lisa is a Senior at Central Michigan University and is passionate about humanitarian issues including, but not limited to, Medical Cannabis, Environmental Justice, Family Life Education, Holistic Health, and Supporting Survivors of Aggression.
Featured Image Courtesy of: http://knau.org/post/rural-medical-marijuana-users-may-regain-right-grow