Massachusetts community news website Common Wealth says that the plight of medical cannabis patients is being obscured by the debate about recreational marijuana. According to the article, the 2013 legalization of medical cannabis is not making the difference that voters wished for when they approved the move.
For example, there are no cannabis dispensaries whatsoever in Boston – a populous city where more than half Massachusetts voters, who approved medical cannabis programs by a two thirds majority, actually live.
That means you can get a patient card, but you can only get your cannabis from an out of town source. For those suffering from painful conditions, getting their hands on cannabis products becomes all but impossible. Even finding CBD oil, a cannabis product that will not make its users high, falls into this category.
Author says he struggles to get medical cannabis for his MS
Geoffrey Rilinger, the author of the article, isn’t just getting angry at this state of affairs as a matter of principle, it touches him personally. As a Multiple Sclerosis sufferer, he chose to decline opioids to relieve his pain and worked with his doctor to access medical cannabis. The results, he says have been remarkable – and he still doesn’t use opioids, even though he could get them much more easily.
The reasons for avoiding opioids for pain relief are certainly compelling. Apart from addiction, an all too common problem after patients around the US were given oxycontin and got hooked, there’s also the danger of overdoses as the need for more and more opioids to control pain increases with tolerance. As they get used to the drug, they need more of it in order to get the same effect.
Rilinger says that medical cannabis gives him pain relief without having to face the danger of addiction, but that patients struggling to obtain medical cannabis will turn to opioids as the easiest available option. There are only six registered medical cannabis outlets in the state, and Rilinger says that just isn’t enough.
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It’s not just Rilinger who says that legal access to medical cannabis will make a difference. He points to a National Bureau of Economic Research finding that said having a dispensary in a neighborhood lead to 15 to 35% reduction in substance abuse related hospital admissions and says that there is also an “equally” large reduction in fatal overdoses. A study published by JAMA Internal Medicine found that having a medical cannabis program in place led to 24% less opioid related fatalities.
He calls Massachusetts’ lack of licensed cannabis outlets owing to conservative licensing “inhumane” and says that many will turn to the more dangerous but easier to obtain opiates in their quest for pain relief.
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Despite having a medical cannabis program, it seems that many Massachusetts patients who qualify, will nevertheless turn to opiates, simply because medical cannabis is so hard to get legally. Do you live in Massachusetts? What’s your experience? Do you agree with Rilinger?