This is the third and final series discussion about medical marijuana. I would be remiss if I did not cover the political climate which affects anyone who uses or is considering the use of medical marijuana for the management of pain. Issues should also be kept in mind for those who decide to prescribe this herb for their patient/client, the one who is living with ongoing pain. Just as opioids, which have become a political pawn, used for pain treatment options, marijuana has its supporters and detractors. While your healthcare provider and family may be supportive of this pain treatment option, insurance companies, employers, friends, law enforcement officers, and other health care specialists involved in your care may not. It is important to be aware of the potential roadblocks as you attempt to build an effective pain relief toolbox.

As of early 2019, federal law states that marijuana, whether recreational or medical, is illegal. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) continues to list marijuana as a Schedule I drug, among other drugs, such as LSD and heroin, with “a high potential for abuse and no evidence of acceptable medical use.”

In spite of Congress and the Federal government failing to change, many state laws have relaxed the illegalities around the growing, distribution, sale and use of marijuana over the past decade. The 2018 midterm election saw changes in Michigan, Missouri, and Utah, which now have legalized marijuana in some way. DISA has provided a current, interactive map as well as a state by state grid on marijuana legislation.

States, like Colorado and Washington State, are leaders in tapping the economic advantages of marijuana as a cash crop, which in turn provides a much-needed tax revenue. A 20% tax has been attached to recreational marijuana in these states, with a projected national tax on an income of over 7 BILLION dollars at this time. As previously covered in my December 2017 blog: “Pot for Pain Relief? What the Research Gurus Say,” research continues to uncover the medical benefits from the use of this plant. And, some who are concerned about the drug overdose problem in the U.S., feel that medical marijuana may help reduce the reliance on opioid use. The clash of issues is apparent.

Should you decide to add marijuana into your pain treatment toolkit, keeping current on your state laws will be helpful, but may not dismantle the obstacles you can face if you choose this method for pain relief. States will continue to legalize as public opinion continues to change.

Insurance companies, employers, law enforcement, and healthcare providers may erect or maintain both real and potential barriers.  Concerns about safety while driving, operation of machinery, critical decision making while working, interactions with other medications and/or medical conditions, along with mandatory drug testing policies have been cited as road blocks. Users must balance the risks with benefits as they decide.

As I stated in the September 2018 blog, “Medical Marijuana: How to Choose, How to Use”:

Just like any pain relief option, cannabis may work as a key component of one person’s pain tool kit and not for another. It is not a one size fits all treatment option. This is an option that should be discussed with your healthcare provider before seeking out a licensed marijuana prescriber and dispenser. If you are currently taking opioids for pain relief, find out if you will be required to taper off before cannabis is started.

Before having a discussing with your healthcare provider, be sure you have done your homework. Check laws and regulations on medical marijuana in your state and community as they vary. Some other areas to address are:

  • Will medical marijuana affect your ability to work and perform expected duties?
  • Will your job be secure or is there a risk of job loss if medical marijuana is legally prescribed?
  • Is there a risk of losing work-related security clearances due to medical marijuana use?
  • What do you need to know if you travel across state lines or outside the U.S. while using medical marijuana?
  • What are the purchasing rules and restrictions if you travel for business or recreation out of state or outside the U.S?

I hope this blog, as well as the others from the Medical Marijuana series, have been helpful. I invite you to post your questions, concerns, tips or experiences. Sharing information benefits everyone.

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