Medical marijuana is legal in Washington state and there is a bill on the table for some reform to make obtaining cannabis for medical reasons a little less onerous. And, frankly, less hazy.
Now, before you go off dismissing this post, assuming I'm some hippie pot-head, I have to admit that I've never tried marijuana. Not even the "I didn't inhale" thing, but I've honestly never in any way, shape or form been near it.
Anyway, right now, if you are authorized by a physician (who is licensed to authorize medical marijuana) to use marijuana you have to either grow it yourself or get it from another patient who grows it. As a patient, you are allowed to grow 15 plants. If that's more than you can use or need you can donate your extra supply to another patient or, in the case of a few dispensaries in Seattle, you can donate it to the dispensary to sell to patients. The sales are used to cover the costs of running the dispensary.
This is, obviously, problematic for a number of reasons. First, as a patient, you need to know how to cultivate and grow marijuana which, if you are in a lot of pain (ostensibly why you are legally using it in the first place), you probably aren't interested in going through the process of setting up your own grow op.
Second, if you are in pain it takes time to grow and process your pain meds. Imagine if you were in pain and the doctor just gave you a prescription for a narcotic pain medicine, gave you some basic instructions and suggested you make it at home. Of course, this is an exaggeration since most of us aren't chemists, but it's not that much further from reality when it comes to medical marijuana.
In any case, the reform is attempting to help resolve some of the gray areas when it comes to distribution of medical marijuana. The dispensaries here sell marijuana as tinctures, as food additives and in a few other forms. Doctors who are authorizing "prescriptions" for marijuana recommend against smoking it. And, oddly enough, currently there are no guidelines for dosages and one has to basically experiment with quantities to determine what works for them.
So, if you are a patient who needs pain control, but doesn't want to take narcotics and experience the whole host of side-effects incumbent with them, it's certainly possible in this state to use marijuana instead, although it is not a system that is easy to navigate. I, admittedly, don't know much about how marijuana compares to narcotics from a long-term side-effect standpoint, but from what I've heard, there are considerably fewer. Plant-based drugs are generally less problematic than pharma-based chemical drugs and, if I had to choose, I would prefer the plant based ones. In either case, I would like to see more research going into marijuana for medical purposes to see how it stacks up.
Since I've seen the numerous terrible side-effects, complications and drug interactions of various narcotics that my husband endured trying to get his pain under control during his cancer treatment (and, believe me, he tried them all), I can honestly claim that marijuana should be the first line of treatment. Unfortunately, social mores prevent us as a society from truly exploring the benefits of this plant. I hope that, in due time, this will not be the case.
As a side note - Mary Lou Dickerson (a rep from WA state) is working on a bill to legalize marijuana in this state, where it would be sold in state liquor stores, but that's a whole different issue than providing it for pain relief.
What's your opinion on medical marijuana or your experiences with it versus something like Percoset or codeine? Feel free to leave an anonymous comment or make up some groovy name if you don't want to be tracked by the feds.