Why the Trump Administration’s Potential Crackdown on Recreational Cannabis is a Direct Threat to Medical Cannabis. (Opinion)
On February 24th, 2017 White House spokesperson Sean Spicer told reporters that the Trump Administration had no plans of taking the current “laid back” approach to cannabis laws. Signaling a potential crackdown on recreational cannabis in legalized states, Spicer has even gone as far as to link cannabis use with the opioid epidemic stating “When you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming around so many states … the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people.” This potential crackdown has many in the industry worried and understandably so.
“When you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming around so many states … the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people”
While the Trump Administration may think that they are preventing opiate abuse by eliminating recreational cannabis, studies show a direct correlation between less opiate abuse in states with legalized cannabis programs. Cannabis has successfully been used as an “exit” drug, helping with breaking addiction and easing withdrawal symptoms. According to a study published in the journal Addiction Research and Theory, cannabis users replaced their prescription drugs 67.8% of the time. (Lucas)
Gateway drug? Far from it.
I have compiled reasons why the crackdown on recreational cannabis would be devastating to medical cannabis patients.
Recreational Use Is Medical Use
Many Americans see cannabis being split into two distinct categories, medical and recreational. While these two markets are being treated separately, they share the same exact plant and many of the same consumers. There is a growing movement towards treating all cannabis use as medical. I fit into this method of thinking and fully believe that even “recreational” use is medical. Many patients shop in recreational shops because they suffer from ailments not covered by current medical cannabis qualifying condition lists. For example, I suffer from severe panic and anxiety disorder, which I medicate with cannabis to treat. Anxiety and Panic disorders are not covered under the Colorado medical cannabis qualified conditions list. So I had a choice. Either use my previous car accident and chronic neck / back pain as a qualifying condition or visit recreational cannabis dispensaries to purchase the medicine that I need for my mental health conditions. As of today, PTSD is not listed as a qualifying condition, leaving many veterans without access to proper medicine options, unless they visit recreational dispensaries. With the current model for qualifying conditions, dismantling the recreational cannabis program could have devastating affects on the medical well-being of patients seeking legal relief of their conditions that are not technically listed as qualifying ailments.
Recreational Cannabis Is Tested
In Colorado, recreational cannabis is tested and labeled with potency, pathogen and pesticide/nutrient results. This enables the consumer to consciously select products that they feel safe and comfortable with using. This testing process is especially important for patients with compromised immune systems and for medical conditions which are sensitive to certain chemicals, such as autism. Currently in Colorado’s medical cannabis program, full testing is not required by dispensaries. (Backwards, yes, but this is why tested recreational cannabis should not be eliminated.)
Cannabis Can Be Changed to Schedule 2
According to the FDA, DEA and Federal Government cannabis is a Schedule 1 substance. This designation explains that cannabis is as dangerous as heroin and that it has no known medical application or value. Within short notice, the Schedule 1 classification could change to a Schedule 2. Changing cannabis to Schedule 2 would allow it to be prescribed by doctors only in certain circumstances and opens the doors for pharmaceutical companies to develop cannabis based drugs that these doctors can prescribe. If Schedule 2 were to be enacted, medical cannabis programs as we see them today could be completely eliminated by the federal government, forcing patients to buy over-priced drugs and eliminating their ability to grow their own medicine. Recreational cannabis and recreational plant counts directly combat this by allowing the purchase, open exchange and ability to have home grows. Some patients would be devastated if re-scheduling occurred without some form of recreational legalization being enacted. Washington state eliminated their medical program in favor of a recreational program, their patients would have to relocate or move back underground into the black market if recreational markets were outlawed.
Patients Do Not Want to Sign up in a Registry
There are patients who use cannabis for medical reasons, but purchase their products on the recreational market because they do not want to be tracked within a state database. When obtaining a medical cannabis recommendation all of your information (address, phone and SSN) are tracked by paperwork in the state’s databases for the medical cannabis registry. There are patients that feel it is an intrusion on their privacy and would rather avoid the paperwork associated with a medical card. They instead shop at an adult use, recreational location to get their medicine without being documented by the state.
Less Product Choices for Patients
Like any other medicine, patients prefer to have choices. Choices give patients the ability to medicate the way that they feel is best for them. (After they discuss the best methods with their doctor, of course)
Sometimes patients only want to ingest edibles or oil. Other patients may exclusively use vaporizers so that they can titrate their doses properly. With cannabis being a very well rounded healer, patients need an equally well rounded selection of products that cater to their medicating regimen. Recreational cannabis, while geared towards for-profit transactions, has the advantage of larger capital investments, a wider audience and bigger budgets to develop new, cleaner and innovative products that smaller medical based companies simply do not have the budget or manpower to create. Some of the best medical cannabis products have been funded and expanded through companies that service recreational and medical markets.
When only “medical” markets are allowed, innovation is stifled and patients lose out on potentially life saving products.
Patients Do Not Want to Give up Gun Rights
Under Federal law, medical cannabis patients are not allowed to buy or own firearms. It has even been reported that law enforcement have stripped patients of their concealed carry permits once they obtain a medical cannabis recommendation. Essentially a patient has to choose between medicating or losing their second amendment right. You can say that you are not “user of, or addicted to,” cannabis, but you run the risk of perjury which carries a felony penalty and jail time. Guns or cannabis, sadly this is what many patients are faced with. There is one way around these regulations though, recreational cannabis. Patients can still purchase their medicine legally and purchase a firearm because there is no registry or admittance of use with recreational cannabis. In the case of patients that refuse to give up their gun rights, recreational cannabis is their best legal option.
Where Do We Go From Here?
The Trump Administration was a wildcard on cannabis policy from the start of their campaigning. With the appointment of Jeff Sessions and other key policy makers within the White House, we can only assume there will be some type of push back from the federal government on issues surrounding cannabis law. Their track record and history prove that they are not comfortable with cannabis being the status quo.
It is our responsibility to take care of one another and make our voices heard. Make it known that we need cannabis to be free, legal and out of the hands of the federal government.
Our government has been using fear and scare tactics to manipulate public opinion on cannabis for as long as we remember. It is our duty to keep our voices heard, to combat fear with truth.
Continue writing and calling your elected politicians, share everything you can about the healing power of cannabis, make your positive voice louder than the voice of misinformation.
Together we can do this. Cannabis was not legalized overnight, it took a movement and lot of time to get where we are today. We cannot let one decision get the best of us, we are much stronger that that.
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*Cannabis Laws vary by state, I am a Colorado resident and my laws and outlook may differ from your state laws and experience.*
Lucas, P., Reiman, A., Earleywine, M., Mcgowan, S. K., Oleson, M., Coward, M. P., & Thomas, B. (2012). Cannabis as a substitute for alcohol and other drugs: A dispensary-based survey of substitution effect in Canadian medical cannabis patients. Addiction Research & Theory, 21(5), 435–442. doi:10.3109/16066359.2012.733465