Compassion Should Be The Goal Of Medical Cannabis Reform
The goal of medical cannabis policy modernization efforts should be obvious – to help suffering patients. If a suffering patient benefits from one or more medical cannabis therapeutics, and the medical professionals treating the patient deem the consumption of such therapeutics to be safe, then the patient should be able to pursue legal options.
Unfortunately, many medical cannabis programs around the world fail to truly put compassion at the heart of their efforts. Instead, lawmakers and/or governments in some countries have implemented medical programs that only help a tiny percentage of suffering patients.
The limited usefulness of the programs is due to various factors that will be discussed below. It is worth noting that some legal access to medical cannabis is technically better than outright prohibition for all. However, for suffering patients who are not able to legally access medical cannabis due to a program’s limitations, outright prohibition may as well be the law of the land.
As countries around the globe continue to work to modernize their cannabis policies, it’s important for advocates to push for key provisions within their borders. Suffering patients deserve meaningful safe access, not performative ‘reform.’
Keep in mind that cannabis prohibitionists in many countries have read the writing on the wall and abandoned hope of keeping prohibition in place. Instead, they are now pivoting to doing everything they can to set up medical cannabis programs for failure, which is obviously not good for patients or governments.
A nation’s medical cannabis program is only as good as the number of health conditions that a suffering patient can qualify under to legally enter the program. Humans suffer from a wide variety of conditions, and a growing body of peer-reviewed research demonstrates that cannabis therapeutics can help treat a significant number of them.
It should not be up to a politician and/or government bureaucrat to decide which suffering patients get safe access to their medicine and which ones do not. The sensible, compassionate, and humane way to determine if a patient would benefit from cannabis therapeutics is to let the medical professionals who are treating them decide.
Another key component that largely contributes to a medical cannabis program’s success or failure involves the list of people/entities that can approve a patient for a nation’s medical cannabis program. Some countries only permit certain medical doctors to do it, or require medical professionals to obtain a special license. That approach is typically counterproductive.
A country could have every favorable medical cannabis policy provision in place, and yet if everything has to funnel through a select group of professionals that may or may not let their personal biases get in the way, there’s always the chance that problems can arise. Some doctors will refuse to even consider medical cannabis due to stigma.
For many suffering patients, a primary physician is not even who they see for a vast majority of their appointments, particularly in rural areas. Allowing true medical professionals beyond just medical doctors to approve patients ensures that all suffering patients have more options when seeking approval.
Variety of Medications
A big mistake that some countries make when passing medical cannabis reform measures is only permitting patients to use one or a handful of cannabis therapeutics, typically synthetic pharmaceutical cannabis medications. Such medications are expensive, and only help a limited number of patients.
Additionally, countries will sometimes only permit one or two cultivators, which is always a recipe for supply hiccups. If only one cultivator gets a license, and it turns out that they are not as qualified to cultivate cannabis as they claimed and/or issues arise at their facilities, it obviously affects a whole nation’s program. It typically also limits the types of cannabis that are available for research purposes.
Patients are going to seek out the types of cannabis medications that provide them relief, whether that comes from a regulated or unregulated source. For safety and effectiveness purposes, it’s obviously better for patients to obtain medications from regulated sources, however, that’s only possible if a variety of medications are legally available. The supply of legal medical cannabis products must match what patients are actually needing.
Every reasonable cannabis advocate recognizes the need for certain medical cannabis regulations such as licensing, inspections, and product testing. Such regulations ensure that patients are being provided safe and effective medicine.
Due to stigma, a lack of understanding, and/or outright sabotage, some countries that have passed well-meaning medical cannabis reform measures have witnessed their programs fail by every measure due to their medical cannabis programs getting crushed by regulations.
Nations need to ask themselves ‘what problem are we trying to fix’ when pushing for individual medical cannabis regulations, coupled with ‘does this regulation balance addressing a potential problem with the needs of suffering patients?’ Far too often it seems like no one is truly thinking when passing some medical cannabis regulations that are now found around the world.
Allowing suffering patients and/or their caregivers to cultivate medical cannabis gives some policymakers and regulators heartburn, yet, it is a vital component of a successful medical cannabis program. Nations that do not permit home medical cannabis cultivation will always experience gaps in patients receiving their medicine.
Home cultivation alone is not enough to ensure consistent safe access to medical cannabis, just as only allowing medical cannabis to be sold through pharmacies is not enough. Permitting home cultivation of a handful of plants is part of a comprehensive approach to safe access. It allows patients to completely control what goes into their medicine and provides an equitable way for all suffering patients to obtain some level of cannabis therapeutics.