In the United States, marijuana is legal—in one form or another— in 24 states and the District of Columbia. All these states have legalized various medical uses for cannabis, and severe and chronic pain is the most common condition reported among the patients.
It seems like the nation is experiencing a seismic shift in global drug policy, but in fact, federal marijuana policy is unsustainable and contradictory. Marijuana prohibition, which was initially designed to criminalize illicit drug trade and limit drug abuse, has victimized thousands of people seeking relief. For many of them, the drug improves the quality of lives dramatically.
Under federal law, the Controlled Substance Act, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug—“the most dangerous class of drugs with a high potential for abuse and potentially severe dependence” and “with no accepted medical use.” In short, cannabis is equal to LSD, heroin, and other heavy drugs.
The fact that the plant's therapeutic properties are scientifically proven is likely to be insufficient for getting cannabis removed from the list.
Weed is available in certain states in certain stores for certain patients with specific conditions.
As you know, the primary marijuana component that provides the high state is tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. CBD, however, is a non-psychoactive element that makes weed so appealing as a medicine. It may relieve severe pain and inflammation, treat epilepsy, cancers, mental illnesses, muscle control problems—and all this with no side effects.
But even if you live in a state where medical marijuana is legal, it does not necessarily guarantee you the absolute access to the medication. For example, in the District of Columbia, there are no conditions that allow doctors to prescribe cannabis, dispensaries to sell it, and patients to buy or grow it. Opening a business there is hard work; opening a pot business is almost impossible.
In Nevada, doctors fear for their prescription pads thinking that they can be prosecuted or penalized for recommending medical cannabis to their patients.
Illinois has approved 39 conditions that allow the use of medical marijuana but missed a few significant ones, like chronic pain, autism, and post-traumatic disorders. Also, patients in Illinois must pay a $250 application fee and other charges in order to get a medical marijuana prescription.
In Virginia, many doctors do not want to talk to their patients about weed. In medicine, the doctor-patients relationships are protected by the rules of confidentiality, but no such protection exists for marijuana.
The first and the most necessary step toward opening the door to medical marijuana is changing its classification to Schedule II or even III drug. Currently, a number of groups, including the New England Journal of Medicine and the American Medical Association, are calling for reconsideration of the plant's status. It would officially provide marijuana with medicinal value and expand research.
The government should also move away from patient-doctor relationships in the matter of cannabis.
In addition, it should create a new regulatory system for chemicals like cannabidiol to be used strictly as medicine, with no recreational value.
The drug policy that is currently incoherent must be based on stable and predictable laws, protecting weed entrepreneurs and ensuring them support like any other businesses. That includes the implementation of business tax deductions, the permission to routine financial operations like checking accounts and bank loans, and the protection from arrest for using or purchasing medical marijuana.