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Abandoning Medical Pot Snubs Patients

Jacob Redmond

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A Jan. 11 Register-Guard editorial titled "Don't repeat Colorado's stumbles" proposed, among other points, the termination of Oregon's Medical Marijuana Program. Though perhaps administratively expeditious and arguably more lucrative for the state, the suggestion has several flaws.

The editor's proposal, also being espoused by some in the Legislature, is an elaborate bait-and-switch to thwart the will of the people, who expressly voted to create a recreational cannabis program while leaving the OMMP alone. Many voters would never have supported Measure 91 had there been any dire consequence to the OMMP in so doing.

Abolition of Oregon's program, second oldest in the nation, would obliterate medical cannabis patients' identities. Many current patients have said they will continue to be OMMP cardholders because they are medical cannabis patients, not recreational cannabis users. The abolition of the OMMP would deny their medical status, their truths and the medical efficacy of cannabis, and also deeply prejudice the health and rights of medical cannabis patients.

Medical marijuana dispensary personnel have a specialized knowledge base, inasmuch as they must know their medicinal offerings and what conditions are best treated by their medicinal options. They must take the time to ascertain each patient's unique medicinal needs and health care goals to pair them with the medicinal products and delivery system that has the best chance of meeting their needs and goals.

Medical marijuana dispensary staff members also must be aware of human physiology, possible drug interactions, and what the latest medical cannabis research reveals about the best treatment approaches to specific diseases. The motives underlying retail salespeople are quite different from those who are assisting medical cannabis patients with their health care choices.

As to the editorial's suggestion of uniform dosage for edible marijuana products – medibles – each person processes cannabis uniquely. While a 10 milligram dose of THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, may be adequate as a medible in Colorado, it may be wholly inadequate for medicinal cannabis patients.

In a recreational retail context, many medicinal options will not be offered by retail outlets, though they may be an essential treatment component for some patients. Cannabidiol, or CBD, for instance, is a compound in marijuana with medicinal effects but few psychoactive effects. Generally speaking, recreational users prefer high-THC cannabis, while the needs of medicinal cannabis patients are much more diverse, falling along a continuum from high THC/low CBD strains to high CBD/low THC, to the acidic cannabinoid precursors found in raw cannabis.

Dosing strategies by medical cannabis patients are likewise diverse, inasmuch as they may involve using cannabis via suppositories, transdermal patches, topical creams, sublingual tinctures, vaporizers, cannabis-infused foods or beverages, or smoking. A purely recreational cannabis market would not be responsive to the unique array of life-and-death issues faced by Oregon's nearly 70,000 medicinal cannabis patients (the number of adult recreational users in Oregon is estimated at 900,000).

Oregonians, humane lot that they are, first recognized the medicinal utility of cannabis in 1998. The passage of Measure 91 last November did nothing to lessen their appraisal of cannabis' important health benefits, and expressly sought to protect the OMMP by not throwing its patients under the onrushing bus of cannabis' legalization.

Oregon's recreational tax revenues would come at a dear cost to medical cannabis patients, who are disabled and often poor. The idea of forcing patients to pay elevated prices for their medicine and then apply for a rebate ignores the precarious nature of their existence. Medicinal cannabis costs cannot be offset by insurance coverage, and patients often lack the wherewithal to afford the elevated expenses that recreationalizing their medicine will engender via taxes and other market pressures.

Many destitute patients currently rely upon the altruism of OMMP growers and dispensary owners to provide them with their medicinal needs at no charge, and they must budget for months in advance to meet the yearly cost of renewing their OMMP card. In the state's gold rush toward this novel revenue stream, it must be mindful of the human costs.

It is foolhardy to abandon a medical cannabis program, when we have an explosion of medical research indicating the huge medicinal benefits provided by cannabis to patients suffering from chronic pain, seizure disorders, cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder and other profound health care challenges.

I must wonder whether proponents of the eradication of the OMMP in favor of an adult recreational cannabis program are ignorant of the ramifications, or callously indifferent to the plight of the patients whose existence and inconvenient truths they would so easily dismiss. What about the nature of their daily suffering has made their rights inferior?


News Moderator: Jacob Redmond 420 MAGAZINE ®
Full Article: Abandoning medical pot snubs patients | Opinion | The Register-Guard | Eugene, Oregon
Author: David Guy Evans
Contact: davidguyevans@hotmail.com
Photo Credit: Kathryn Scott Osler
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