This week we’ll be looking at how the total legalisation of cannabis (i.e. medical AND recreational) is the only way to ensure the full and unhindered access for ALL medicinal cannabis patients.
In recent years in the US, a majority of states have voted to legalise the use of medical cannabis. Currently, 28 individual states plus the District of Columbia have legalised at least medicinally, with several states in that list going one step further; also legalising the recreational consumption of cannabis: Colorado, Oregon, California, Alaska, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Washington and several more states are currently in the process of bringing various bill’s to state legislators, seeking to legalise for either medical or recreational purposes.
This has all taken place while cannabis remains federally illegal in the United States and is still classified by the DEA (Drugs Enforcement Agency) as a schedule one substance having “no approved medicinal value”. This is the same archaic classification as we have here in the UK.
Restricting legal access just to medical consumers means that only patients in states with a limited number of qualifying conditions may acquire the medicine they need. This is because each state’s requisite conditions vary widely, meaning you may not qualify in your home state but may in another.
This can lead to two things which are both not what you want to see in under legal cannabis regulation:
- Patients may be forced to lie about conditions in order to receive medical treatment for a different condition not covered in their state.
2. Patients may get their supply on the black market rather than via regulated channels.
This is epitomised by the back pain and migraine epidemic that swept through California in the latter part of the 1990’s following the passing of prop 215, which in 1996 legalised medicinal cannabis for 12 approved conditions including Cancer, Aids, and you guessed it, Chronic pain and Migraine headaches
It’s now over 20 years later and California has recently passed prop 64, which fully legalises cannabis within the state (except at Federal level). Now all adults have access to legal cannabis patients suffering from Anxiety, Depression, PTSD, BPD, Bipolar, Alzheimers, Tourette’s, Crohn’s, Asthma, Epilepsy, Anorexia, Parkinson’s, Insomnia, Autism and other conditions not covered by medical legislation will finally be able to utilise cannabis legally.
Before this, the patient black hole created as an unforeseen consequence of passing of prop 215 along with the continued criminalisation of non-approved consumers for two decades left a lot of patients suffering alone and unable to seek professional medical help.
They were left ignorant to the benefits of cannabis by the very doctors whose Hippocratic oaths swear to protect them. Those doctors were not allowed to prescribe, condone or in most cases even discuss with patients the possibility of using cannabis, for fear of being struck off as a doctor.
This meant patients whose conditions could be improved by the medicinal use of cannabis weren’t informed about it; they were open to criminalisation should they find out on their own terms and self-medicate.
Let’s be clear – this is still the cold reality facing British patients today.
This presents opportunistic dealers with the chance to charm their way into the good graces of some of the most vulnerable people in our society. It also ensures the continued protection of “snake oil” salesmen and oil scammers as patients cannot report them to the authorities.
And it guarantees that there is no regulation for the supposed medication cultivated by these dealers who’re too often motivated by nothing more than profit and to happy to scam cancer patients.
There are no lab tests for mould, pesticides, unsuitable growth chemicals and contaminants.
It is interesting to note that states with legal medicinal cannabis have seen a definite reduction in the amount of pharmaceutical prescriptions that patients consume, in particular lowering the abuse rates of opioids that are responsible for the current epidemic in the US.
“States with medical cannabis laws on the books saw 24.8 percent fewer deaths from painkiller overdoses compared to states that didn’t have such laws.”
This was published back in 2014. Unfortunately, there aren’t more recent comparative numbers. But this trend is likely to continue to increase with the availability of information about the conditions that cannabis can help to treat, and with more states voting to allow access to cannabis.
At a time when UK opiate deaths are at dangerous and growing numbers, surely it’s appropriate to look at this as a viable solution to stop people dying?
Issues with the system in the US
However, although the states are moving forward there are still many issues with the current system:
- Having only certain qualifying conditions accepted in some states but not in others creates Interstate cannabis refugees.
- Another issue is that they continue to use the antiquated (and racist) term Marijuana
- It is still a postcode lottery with regard to whether treatment of your condition qualifies in that state.
- There are still restrictions on the number of plants patients can grow, meaning if you need a large amount of oil you’ll still have to break the law to cultivate enough for your personal supply.
- The continued stigmatisation, persecution and presumed criminalisation of patients by healthcare professionals, the media and the authorities continue to cause incalculable mental and physical damage to the individual and the wider society.
The arbitrary nature of State law means that someone who qualifies to grow cannabis in some states could still face not just the loss of employment, incarceration but also forfeiting their home under federal drug asset seizure laws.
After global recreational legalisation, all patients will have the ability to grow their own medicine at home with no restrictions on Cannabinoid content or plant numbers.
It will, as is already evident, reduce the amount insurance companies are paying out to pharmaceutical companies via prescriptions in the states, saving all citizens on insurance premiums.
It will also massively reduce the fiscal burden on the NHS, no doubt saving us millions (probably billions) annually from unscrupulous pharmaceutical companies.
I completely agree that it is vitally important that pharmaceutical drugs go through vigorous testing and are meticulously researched and developed before bringing them to the marketplace. But this, in my opinion, should only apply for manufactured and licensed drugs that carry a risk of serious injury when misused and abused, or ones that are fatal when overdosed upon.
With cannabis, when you consume too much, if it could even be called an “overdose” (we think not) you’re probably heading for a good nights sleep (usually with a full stomach) and, at worse, a slight stoneover.
Remember: despite what the tabloids try to say, no one has ever died from the consumption of cannabis because it isn’t toxic and you can’t overdose on it. That’s why Mountain man can do 14 gram dabs and walk away (for reference 14 grams of oil can probably have a similar THC level to around 2oz or 56g of cannabis buds, although this will vary with strain, batch, extractor and other variables). Don’t try that one at home though!
This is why I believe cannabis should be legalised and regulated as a supplement, as well as a medication, allowing people to cultivate and consume cannabis and experiment with it to determine for themselves the effectiveness of it in relieving the symptoms of their condition. Despite what we’re told by the mainstream media in this country, it is relatively harmless when compared to legal (or most illegal) alternatives.
This maybe difficult because “Big Pharma” are one of the largest political lobbying groups in the world. In the US, pharmaceutical firms spent $250 million last year on lobbying in Washington DC alone.
In the UK it is difficult to come up with a monetary sum for our equivalent because unlike other government departments NHS England does not register its meetings with lobbyists. It also does not routinely publicly disclose all potential conflicts of interest. But it is happening: the pharmaceutical companies interests are being put ahead of those of the general public.
International Medical Cannabis
Israeli companies like Ican and OWC PPharmaceuticals are the latest to join the international cabal of medical cannabis along with, Canada’s Tilrey, Britain’s GW Pharmaceuticals, Holland’s Bedrocan and a handful of other companies that have quickly become billion pound global exporters of medicinal cannabis products, monopolising the international supply not unlike the international drugs cartels operating under prohibition for decades.
The relatively low cost of prescriptions in the UK (which is great, by the way) means that the NHS cannot afford to supply most of the currently available cannabis medications at the extortionate rates companies are charging for their products, meaning patients are deprived of potentially beneficial medications.
A great example of this issue is GW Pharmaceuticals Sativex,
a cannabis based medication derived from Skunk No.1 cannabis cultivated in Kent and sold around the world in 28 countries but NOT here in Britain. This means that the 100,000+ British MS patients are denied access to a medication that has been shown to be highly effective at treating the symptoms of MS, which has recently been acknowledged by the MS society itself as being beneficial.
By only allowing pharmaceutically produced cannabis derived medications such as Sativex, Epidolex and synthetic cannabinoids medications such as Marinol and Nabilone to be utilised by patients, it ensures that only the already established international pharmaceutical cartel will be able to provide these drugs, continuing their monopolisation of the medical cannabis marketplace.
This is just a continuation of the current paradigm in which a small group of individuals control the supply, making excessively large profits.
If patients had access to sensibly priced medicine, the option to grow their own, or access via pharmacies, compassion clubs, co-ops or trusted carers, this would remove them from the clutches of criminal dealers.
This current limiting of access to a set number of medical conditions in certain geographic locations is a continuation of the problem. It leaves many patients suffering needlessly.
Actually, the prohibition of cannabis is comparable to the dark ages of science in Europe, where the religious ideology of consecutive rulers contributed to the suffering of the population by denying and even executing individuals for practising magic/witchcraft and using “potions” to heal the sick and cure disease.
This is still going on today just look at the demonisation and witch hunt surrounding Rick Simpson and the many other people who have in defiance of the law chosen to self-medicate with cannabis and teach others how to make cannabis oils and preparations so they too can utilise this healing herb.
Why is cannabis a plant that most nations still deem to be an illegal substance with “no approved medicinal value”? There’s no logic to the continued prohibition of it’s use.
This determination is not just to the detriment of cannabis patients, but also to the wider community.
It is cruel and immoral to deny the means of ceasing the suffering of another human being and by knowingly keeping cannabis illegal with all the evidence of the efficacy of cannabis. If you want to keep cannabis illegal you are part of a problem which is actively perpetuating the suffering of millions of patients around the world.
The only way to once and for all end this debate is to fully legalise cannabis and allow people to utilise the plant, regardless of the benefits they personally ascribe to it, to determine for themselves whether they wish to continue consuming it.
This still leaves space for patentable pharmaceutical medications to be produced and prescribed, but means that patients do not have to wait until treating a condition becomes profitable to big pharma before seeing if cannabis can be of benefit.
Ultimately the recreational verse medicinal debate is simply another way to divide the community and attempt to slow the inevitable. Cannabis will be legalised globally regardless of the efforts of avid prohibitionists, antiquated politicians and the propaganda they continue to spew.