If medical marijuana isn’t already the law in your state, there’s probably a ballot initiative coming to your polling station or a bill working its way through your legislature that would make it so. More importantly, the majority of Americans already have the legal right to seek out the drug to treat their ailments.
Still, it’s all so new and happening so quickly that there’s a lot to unpack and a lot you may not know about this much-talked-about political and social-health issue. Let’s catch you up with a few big, essential facts.
Medical Marijuana Is Already Legal in 25 States
Including New York, New Jersey, California, Washington, Colorado, Maine, Arizona, Alaska, Hawaii, Texas, Ohio, and others. Washington D.C. is also in on the act.
The Majority of Americans Are Covered
If you hadn’t noticed, almost all of the most populous states in the Union have legalized it, meaning more likely than not, you yourself have the option.
The Feds Aren’t, Though
While Congress has significantly lessened the amount of funds earmarked for pot interdiction and the DEA has let up in general, pot is still listed as a Schedule 1 drug with, “no medical use or purpose”. That doesn’t look to change anytime soon.
So Legal Weed Is Still Kinda Illegal?
Yes, technically. The but since it’s up to the states to do the majority of enforcement, it exists in a grey area. It’s pretty murky territory, but the DEA and FBI are being fairly cooperative here. Basically, don’t cross state lines with it.
And This Whole Trend Is Still New
While a number of states moved to decriminalize cannabis in the early-to-mid 70s, it was New Mexico who first approved it for medical use in 1978. It would take 18 years before another state, California, would follow its lead. Overall, 18 of the 25 states who have legalized medical marijuana have done so in the last 15 years.
Yet Over 2 Million Americans Are Already Using Legal Medical Pot
The advocacy group Marijuana Policy Project estimates that 2,151,724 patients had used local laws to legally attain pot as of their 2016 study. All experts agree that number is rising quickly.
But We Can’t Tell How Many of Them Legitimately Need It
Medical pot laws are—anecdotally speaking—the target of abuse. But it’s impossible to determine to what extent as each certified prescribing doctor has their own method and opinion on what constitutes a treatable condition. Complicating the matter are states like California where franchised clinics can provide you with a license in less than two hours (with much of that time spent waiting) with little to no real oversight. Oh, and approximately one third of all licensed pot patients in the U.S. live there.
In Pro-Pot States, It’s Been Indicated as Treatment for Dozens of Conditions
To name just a few: Cancer, HIV/AIDS, nausea, seizures, chronic pain, wasting syndrome, glaucoma, PTSD, migraines, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, ALS, hepatitis, multiple sclerosis, skin conditions such as cirrhosis, Crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia, depression, muscle spasms, and many more. Here’s a full list of qualifying conditions state by state.
But Pot’s Value in Many of Those Cases Remains Scientifically Unproven
While most states have approved most of these conditions for use through government-assembled medical boards of qualified experts, extensive and repeated peer-reviewed, double-blind studies have yet to confirm pot’s benefits for many of them. It’s a case of anecdotal evidence, on-the-ground observations, and patient needs moving faster than researchers can—which is fine! That’s how medicine often works.
Also, for Many of Those Conditions, Pot Is The Cure for the Cure
Wait, what? Yes, for diseases such as cancer and many others, doctors prescribe pot not because it actually cures cancer, but because it lessens the side effects of traditional medical treatments. Most kinds of chemotherapy, for instance, cause nausea, lack of hunger, and pain, all of which marijuana treats somewhat effectively.
Still, Some Doctors Feel That Existing Pharmaceuticals Work Better
Take glaucoma for instance. For years, pot advocates have claimed weed as a best treatment. Yet the Glaucoma Research Foundation found that its benefits were so short-lasting and complicated by side effects that it was practically useless compared to prescription drugs.
And THC Pills May Do a Better Job Than Smoke or Edibles
Though the research, as with so many things in medical marijuana, is still out on that.
That Said, It’s Been Used Medically for Thousands of Years
The first fully established record of pot being used for medical purposes dates back to 2900 B.C. when the Chinese emperor Fu Hsi seems to have noted that, “cannabis was very popular medicine that possessed both yin and yang.” Its medicinal use may indeed pre-date even that.
In Fact, the Only Time It Hasn’t Been Used Medically Was the Early to Mid 20th Century
From early edibles, to smoke, to tinctures, cannabis has been available for physician and self-prescription in multiple cultures from antiquity to its American prohibition in the early 1900s. Whether it’s effective or not, medical marijuana isn’t a historical aberration or a new idea. Rather, it’s the historical norm.