Let’s discuss my thoughts on recreational marijuana versus medical marijuana. Shall we?
Recreational marijuana means anyone above a legal age can purchase cannabis for the purposes of recreational use. To be blunt, it’s for getting high.
Medical marijuana means it requires a doctor’s recommendation for the treatment of a specific condition. It’s a medication like Prozac and baby aspirins.
The positives of recreational marijuana are that it is more easily accessible and can be purchased by all adults. This is great because it saves time by excluding the need to schedule an appointment with a doctor and the process of approval. It also allows adults to use it for relief even if there is no clear diagnosis needing to be treated. I use the term relief because it resides in a gray area between therapeutic and mood-enhancing purposes for entertainment (ie, recreation).
The benefits of medical marijuana policies is that the cost is usually cheaper compared to recreational marijuana in states with full legalization. Also, it ensures a safety net of a healthcare provider to screen (rare) cases of possible harm to users. An example is individuals at high risk of uncovering schizophrenia at an earlier onset than would otherwise occur. Other benefits of medical marijuana are its promotion of research-driven industry and scientific advancement as well as improved monitoring and analysis of data. This leads to less risk to the public (whatever risk there may be) and better understanding of large-scale trends.
Both of these have their drawbacks too. This is where the discussion slides into personal opinion and away from raw objectivity. Bare that in mind.
The problem, in my humble opinion, are the semantics. “Recreational” use means entertainment and social use. However, when a cipher exists and a blunt is being passed on the street, there is a therapeutic component even though it may not appear that way. The leaf is relief. It is a de-stressor. Now, granted, there is a nicotine quenching that occurs too. But a joint would have similar properties is usually used the same way. Joints are a joint venture. Sharing is caring, as they say.
The underlying property that is exclusive to this form of medicating is its use in a group setting compared to the traditional tapering of a medicine to the needs of a single individual. However, if a medicine has few side-effects, relieves a broad array of symptoms and treats common diseases, a new possibility arises – use for relief to an entire group of individuals simultaneously. In such a setting, treatment can coalesce and each partaker has a similar net benefit.
Whether the purpose is to treat or just to socialize is redundant – unbeknownst to “recreational” users is the fact that the effects sought are therapeutic even more than they are social. Let’s not forget that the sociopolitical stigma and criminal persecution of marijuana users has shaped everyone’s beliefs about marijuana in a negative way. If Reefer Madness were instead “Reefer Gladness” (heard it here first, folks) – we would probably be considering marijuana a therapeutic panacea by now.
What I’m trying to convey is that getting high is also medicating even to those who don’t know it. Yes, there are less common instances of truly “recreational” use, but that’s true of anything (think Darwin Awards). Providing the freedom to do so is fine but let’s not label the whole policy as if it were made for that purpose! Far less people are trying to see how high they can get than they are using it routinely but in moderation without any desire to be “recreational.” Mind you, I’m talking about the standard recreational marijuana user.
Now, let’s direct our scrutiny to medical marijuana policy. The most obvious downside is the need to go through a doctor who must recommend its use for the purposes of treating a condition. There’s a number of bad effects this has. For one, it skews the prevalence and incidence of certain diseases by funnelling patients into specific marijuana-approved conditions to provide the drug. Thus, when a person needs it really really bad for an unapproved condition, a doctor is prone to document a qualified condition so that the approval and subsequent treatment commences. Suddenly, the population’s incidence of lower back pain has shifted far outside of logistical possibility and this has all sorts of consequences on policies, guidelines, health insurance coverage, and the healthcare industry.
This may seem on the surface to be unethical practices by the doctor, but actually it is not. It would cross legal boundaries, for sure. Because that’s how contemporary laws have been written on a state level. However, on a Hippocratic Oath level – it’s not. That is because doctors are educated so thoroughly that they have the privilege of prescribing drugs “off-label.” That’s why I occasionally recommend propranolol for PRN (ie, as needed) use to prevent the common short-term side effect of palpitations induced by marijuana for certain individuals. Originally used for BP (an outdated conception), it was used off-label for event-provoked anxiety, like stage-fright. Similarly, I’ve prescribed it off label for preventing palpitations. Unfortunately, state legislation prevents the ability to do that for marijuana so I’m inclined to steer towards approving a patient for a condition that’s secondary and unrelated to the primary condition being treated, only because it exists as well and serves to provide access to treatment.
There are a few other problems with the terminology and policies of medical marijuana but for purposes of brevity I will refrain from discussing them as they are relatively less problematic though there are a couple I will write about in the future.
That is why I declare a call to action for the medical community to shift our goals towards a hybridization of both approaches.
Here it is:
“Over-the-Counter Medical Marijuana”
That’s right. Let it sink in… and tell me if you are with me!
This brand of cannabis policy eliminates the need for a doctor while retaining the notion that it is for health purposes. Just like tylenol, it would be readily available to anyone desiring it while maintaining higher standards and regulations with closer oversight to ensure safety.
Just because it can still be used recreationally, doesn’t mean it is labeled as such for all non-doctor-approved use. Cough syrup is used for recreation too by some idiots but that doesn’t mean we consider it a recreational drug. Consumer abuse aside, almost the entirety of its use is for medical purposes. The difference is that we all know it’s meant to be used for this and we are told it is useful for this so we seek it for that purpose. Unlike marijuana users, who were raised in a society shunning marijuana and officially declaring it unhealthy and detrimental to the body. Only a crazy person would think so far outside the box to realize getting high was unconsciously sought after for its therapeutic properties despite all signs pointing to the opposite. She would have to come to the conclusion that everything and everyone is fabricating a false-truth and institutionalizing American’s for not drinking the Cool-Aid. Think about it, the politicians… the police… the lawyers… the doctors… the teachers… everyone! Well, except fellow criminals like herself.
Let me know what if you agree or disagree with this hybrid approach by commenting below. I recommend trying it out like a new pair of shoes. If it doesn’t feel right, put it down and put on your old pair. If it feels right – like this is the way for the future of ganja policies – then keep it on and let others know about it. Tell them you heard it from me, Dr. Roman, at Nature’s Way Medicine!