With recreational cannabis on the horizon, why continue certification as a medical cannabis patient?
There are many good reasons.
The most obvious is that medical cannabis is less expensive. Recognized medical patients will be exempt from state and local sales taxes. Some communities may increase their cannabis tax revenues by even more than Santa Cruz, therefore if more than a small amount of medication is needed, the low cost of obtaining a medical recommendation will pay for itself.
If a person is ill, it is highly recommended that he or she remain medical. The use of strong medication like cannabis requires careful selection and monitoring. Knowledge of the specific cannabis components needed to treat specific illnesses is rapidly expanding, and cannabis physicians are usually up to date on which types help treat different health issues and diseases. Adjusting doses of specific cannabinoids and terpenes is important for optimal outcome.
Cannabis doctors know what to expect from diseases and from the standard treatments that Western medicine has to offer. They can offer medical opinions on current treatments and suggest other options. Follow-up visits are often needed to evaluate the effects of a treatment, and cannabis doctors are adept at this management.
The choice of the vehicle to deliver cannabis to the needed areas of the body is also important. Cannabis physicians are familiar with these options, as well as problematic interactions with Western medical treatments, though rare, that must be considered.
Many physicians—specialists of all types—now recommend cannabis to their patients, but cannot prescribe it themselves due to federal restrictions or their own lack of understanding of cannabis types and their specific medical uses. Physicians often informally refer their patients to cannabis specialists.
Seasoned bud-tenders at dispensaries may have a basic knowledge of cannabis treatments, but because many clients are more interested in recreational options, their specific medical knowledge is often limited. Cannabis physicians can apply their medical experience to cannabis use.
If patients want to make their own medications, larger amounts of cannabis are often needed. Producing clean, effective edibles, oils, tinctures and topicals generally requires much more cannabis than a recreational amount.
Freshly juiced cannabis leaf and flower is raw produce, and is coming into its own due to its high anti-inflammatory and low psychoactive properties. Growing large amounts of fresh plant material is essential.
The recreational option allows citizens to grow up to six plants with buds. The medical option recognizes the need for more. The recreational option allows the purchase or possession of one ounce of cannabis flowers. Medical cannabis patients may purchase and possess up to 8 ounces of cannabis flowers. For those who require larger doses to fight life-threatening disease, a cannabis physician may recommend that they be allowed significantly more.
Since cannabis edibles carry an increased risk of side effects, recreational edibles will be limited in strength. Obtaining edible medication strong enough to treat serious illness will still require a medical letter from a doctor.
The cost of cannabis remains well below that of chemical Western medicines, but it can still be a significant factor in a patient’s budget. To eliminate this barrier, growing one’s own herbal medicine remains an important option.
There are also several legal reasons to stay medical.
The new law allows each jurisdiction to determine its own limitations on recreational cannabis, and some locations have prohibited recreational entirely. Medical marijuana may be asserted as an affirmative defense for several marijuana-related charges.
Other states with medical cannabis options will often honor a California medical recommendation, but if that state doesn’t have a recreational option, a person found in possession without a medical recommendation may have major problems.
The human body comes with its own, natural cannabinoid-mediated balancing system. If the body is out of balance, it is often because the body’s own natural cannabinoids like Anandamide and 2-AG are out of balance as well. Supporting the body-balancing cannabinoid system with exogenous, plant-derived cannabinoids has been done for thousands of years.
The federal non-acceptance of medicinal cannabis has not changed, but the current Attorney General has implied that recreational cannabis will receive federal law enforcement priority if action is taken.
The fact that the federal government remains years behind the health maintenance curve means that it may be a while before recreational cannabis users can safely exhale.
Until then, the benefit of staying medical remains the best option.
Dr. Paul L. Hoffman, M.D. practices Cannabis and Ayurvedic medicine at 420 Med Consultations, 501 River Street in Santa Cruz.