The legalization of marijuana on a state level is encouraging for patients who use medical marijuana to ease symptoms from debilitating, chronic conditions. Despite the fact that medical cannabis helps patients escape a life sentence of pain, the medicinal use of marijuana is still not widely accepted.
Patients who have been cleared for medicinal use are often labeled as “stoners” or “potheads” — condescending stereotypes that are extremely unfair for people seeking relief from symptoms of chronic illnesses. So how do medical marijuana users overcome societal stigmas? Perhaps the best first step is to look at the reality of medical marijuana use today.
Sadly, there is nothing simple about legalized marijuana in the United States, whether it’s for recreational or medical use. First, laws vary from state-to-state. Plus, they are heavily regulated with unending debates (pros and cons) at both the state and federal levels. The deeper you dig, the more complicated it gets.
Federal laws are not supportive
While states have a say about legalizing marijuana, it’s still not legal on a federal level. According to NPR, “Marijuana, along with heroin, LSD, methaqualone, peyote, and ecstacy remain outlawed in the U.S. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms or ATF, classifies such drugs as having no currently accepted medical use, and a high potential for abuse.”
A lack of consistency
To further muddy the waters, even if marijuana is legal on a state level, it’s still constantly being debated at the federal level.
For example, acting Attorney General Sessions denounces the drug, and in January 2018, he informed federal prosecutors that they should make marijuana prosecution decisions using general law enforcement principles. This, in turn, puts everyone involved in marijuana use, including state medical marijuana employees, on notice that they could be subject to federal prosecution if Congress fails to reauthorize the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment.
That amendment was passed in 2014, and it’s significant because, according to Wikipedia,”It was the first time either chamber of Congress had voted to protect medical cannabis patients, and is viewed as a historic victory for cannabis reform advocates at the federal level.”
States struggle with misinterpretation
The first state that allowed the use of medical marijuana was California in 1996. According to American Magazine, “It was meant to benefit “seriously ill” patients. But the broad language of the law, which permitted physicians to “recommend” marijuana whenever it was determined a “patient’s health would benefit,” led to considerable abuse.
Progress for medical marijuana patients
The good news is, medical marijuana patients are getting relief on a state level, which means it’s slowly becoming more accepted and understood.
According to Governing.com, “Only four states—Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota—have no medical marijuana law. Most have passed comprehensive medical marijuana legislation, and more than a dozen other states permit the use of ‘low THC, high cannabidiol (CBD)’ products for limited medical reasons or as a defense to criminal charges.”
What type of conditions can medicinal marijuana help
The following list of illnesses and conditions varies from state-to-state, but here are a few examples of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana use.
Leafly, Ohio’s medical marijuana program, which is expected to be implemented by September 2018, includes the following conditions:
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Chronic traumatic encephalopathy
- Crohn’s disease
- Epilepsy or other seizure disorders
- Hepatitis C
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Multiple sclerosis
- Chronic, severe and/or intractable pain
- Parkinson’s disease
- HIV-positive status
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Sickle cell anemia
- Spinal cord injury or disease
- Tourette’s syndrome
- Traumatic brain injury
- Ulcerative colitis
- Wasting syndrome
- Severe chronic pain
- Severe nausea
- Seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy
- Severe and persistent muscle spasms
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Chronic pain
Working towards awareness
Until the FDA approves marijuana as a safe and effective drug, your path as a medical marijuana patient may be bumpy. That being said, it’s important to remember that stereotypes are born from misunderstanding. The more people become educated about the reality of medicinal marijuana use, the less often stereotypes will be used. It just takes time.
Your first priority is your health and quality of life. If medical marijuana gives you the ability to ease your pain, spend meaningful time with your family and friends or simply live your life in peace, that’s what matters the most.
Have you or your family members faced stereotypes and stigmas as a medical marijuana patient? How have you overcome them?