Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Medical marijuana as natural medicine

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.


Unknown said...

It should have never been illegal in the first place what right does a country have telling someone what tobacco they can smoke and then post a butt load of taxes on cigarette our government is waked , so many people are in jail over a tree...that could help peoples health.

Unknown said...

I have a Lady friend who went to the Doctor for Eye problems and The Doctor said the Best MED'S he would recommended would be Marijuana , and would you know she took the Doctors advise and is doing well with her Eye condition now.

Melanie, One Wellness said...

I agree that medical marijuana is a logical step in natural medicine. At least when it is used for it's intended purpose, and the physicians prescribing it are not just "handing out candy" so to speak to anyone who complains of a headache. Anything we can do to move away from traditional prescriptions which line the drug companies pockets and wreck the health of our population is a good thing in my book!

April said...

Being in Humboldt county, pot capital of the world, you can grow up to 99 plants legally if you have a 215. Many people use it medicinally, but of course many abuse it as well. Living in a pot culture I can say that people take advantage of the 215 law and get rx's for "pain" which tends to negate those who really need it. It's a complex issue, and there is no easy answer. The ultimate question ends up being: should pot be legalized? Living in a "pot culture" I would have to say no. The kind of society created by this lifestyle has many negative factors and the impact on society as a whole isn't positive. I know many will disagree with me, which is fine, but I feel I have enough first hand experience to defend my argument.

Kate said...

Marijuana is not just useful for pain, but for many other medical problems as well. I'm sure you know this, but it didn't make it into your post. It's useful for promoting appetite and suppressing nausea, a very handy set of attributes for some extremely sick people. It's also useful in helping control pressure inside the eye in glaucoma patients. I have early stage glaucoma. If it were legal for me to grow marijuana in my backyard, you bet I would. I'd much rather be allowed to produce my own medicine than trust that I'll be able to afford synthetic drugs for as long as I have this incurable disease. In some patients untreated glaucoma leads to blindness.

Crunchy Chicken said...

Kate - you are absolutely correct. I didn't mean to focus merely on the pain relief aspect of it.

I forgot about the glaucoma - my mom just went to the optometrist and her glaucoma is getting worse. I'll have to see if she's interested :)

Risa said...

Shouldn't be illegal. Shouldn't be abused. But people are people. A Huichol explained it this way (paraphrased): "Peyote is not a toy, it is a god, like your Eucharist. Everything is good but you have to know your place in relation to it. Self-indulgence is not knowing your place."

Lisa said...

Since the education cuts have ensured I will Never get a job, I may as well say out loud --I've tried that medicine for pain. It did nothing for me but make me think the television was Really Loud.

Anonymous said...

Ever since the drug co (un named) has changed the formula for oxycontin my hub has no relief from his cancer treatment induced pain.

Robj98168 said...

LOL at my last eye check up:
ME: PLEASE DR., I think I have Glaucoma
DR: Why?
Me: So I can get that medical marijuana!

Seriously tho, Mary Jane can be used for eye problems, cancer (makes you want to eat during the yucky chemo) as well as relief from back aches and other body pain. I never understood why my friend terry, who died from AIDS refused it when offered for relief and to get his appetite back. And it is natural as opposed to chemical substances. Don't like to smoke? eat a brownie!

koolchicken said...

I don't think that at this time it should be made legal. Maybe in the future, but right now we don't know the risks. I would treat it like any other drug, it needs proper testing and studies need to be done on it's risks and benefits. I think the problem we face right now is this is a plant that's been used for some time so there are a lot of people who think they know it's safe. But these individual users aren't scientists, and what works for one person might not for another.

I personally don't like the "it's a plant so it's safe" argument. I think the perfect counter argument to this is belladonna is also a plant, but it doesn't make it safe. It can both help people or kill them. Why that plant isn't as restricted I'll never know. It too has been used by people for hundreds of years to get high, but it's very easy to get the dose wrong and it's incredibly toxic.

I think there should be formal studies done on this drug. If there were then maybe we could all get some peace from this topic. We would have hard data that says, yes it can be used for (insert various illnesses here) but it should not be used by (the usual- pregnant women, people on certain drugs or a history or blah blah blah condition).

equa yona(Big Bear) said...

To Koolchicken and others in opposition or concerned about "abuse". The herb was made illegal through lies and propaganda. It has been used for thousands of years with no known ill effects. The US government suppresses testing and any positive info from testing done in other countries. I smoked pot for decades, got through college with high honors using it regularly, pursued a successful teaching career and only stopped using it during the times it wasn't available. It is a pleasant, natural, relaxing and harmless substance. Ps, I am not a long haired kid-I am 64 years old. In case you are wondering about the ravages of pot on my withered frame, I lift weights, hike and have nearly perfect health as far as i know. For reading matter on my nightstand, I have Tacitus, "Annals and Histories", Ajan Chan's "Everything Arises" so I don't feel it has left me brain impaired. Alcohol will do that.

Anonymous said...

I've had a lot of friends and family use it -- for AIDS related issues, for appetite loss due to cancer, for pain control, for glaucoma, for terminal cancer, and I'm sure there are more that I'm spacing.

Given how many medical uses it has and how benign it is compared to cigarettes and alcohol, I think it's silly that it's illegal.

And yes, some people will abuse it, the same as nicotine, alcohol, and coffee. That's not a good argument for illegality, IMO.

Lisa S. said...

I have a chronic illness with a lot of pain and I would love to try medical marijuana but it's not legal here. It's so much safer than OTC meds and RX meds.

Heidi said...

@ Lisa - there are actually different strains that create different effects. if you're looking to manage pain, you want a strain with high cbd's and low thc. we're lucky here in cali that you can go to a good club where you can get all this info. hubby uses for degenerative disc disease. it's a lot better than the opiate derivatives the docs had him on. they made him one big a*#hole. maui wowie makes him much more tolerable.

Lynne said...

Okay, I understand some people abuse the system, but growing up with a bunch of alcoholic relatives (did I mention the abuse that THEY inflicted?), I'd take my chances with some people that giggle too much and eat all the chips.

Chris S. said...

I'm very strongly pro; it's got multiple medical uses and from what I've read it's pretty benign compared to alcohol and nicotine in terms of health consequences. (And on the political side, it would save a hell of a lot of money by stopping enforcement and would put money into city/county coffers via taxes -- while taking business away from the big illegal drug groups...)

Anonymous said...

I have heard of most of the uses listed here, however I have one that I haven't heard much. My best friend smoked for years, daily, and didn't feel right without it. At the point he started smoking, his grades improved (he probably would not have gotten into college otherwise) and he became considerably more engaged in life and deeper thinking.
Years later, after college, he decided to quit because he didn't like relying on a chemical to feel "normal" (and didn't like the carcinogenic possibility). Since then he has been prescribed a drug used to treat ADD but it has side effects and we aren't sure how to proceed from here. Alas, we are not in a medical marijuana state. It is truly a versatile drug.

Brad K. said...

One fact stands out in my mind from the 1980s efforts to get marijuana on the California ballot - at the time cannabis was outlawed, there were 10,000 industrial uses for the hemp plant. All those jobs were pushed to other nations.

The original Levi jeans included hemp fibers (from the cannabis plant) to increase durability of the fabric.

With all the issues around us, from bigotry to terrorism of state capitals by union thugs and school teachers, I don't see criminalizing marijuana. Most of those likely to abuse the substance are already abusing it; it is only law-abiding people that are penalized.

Dale said...

I am totally in favor of it for people with legitimate medical need for it. However, it has become so exploited and has turned into an enormous money making scam that it just makes me angry. It pisses me off that the government has its head so far up its ass that they won't just legalize it, tax the hell out of it, remove the black market aspect of it and use the proceeds to help balance the budget.

DK said...

I don't have any idea the ins and outs of it, but Michigan recently made it legal for medical purposes and the impact it has had upon my immediate family has been tremendously positive. I am in agreement with Dale above me.

Anonymous said...

Growing high quality medical MJ is fairly advanced gardening. (See Jorge Cervantes Complete Medical MJ Growers Bible for exactly how advanced.) Especially for a person with, say, MS, a lot of the skills needed are out of reach for a person with physical limitations due to pain or paralysis. Honestly, our drug laws are so messed up that I really think regulations are just about moot at this point. Let's deregulate, decriminalize, and let the cops focus on real crime.

Lisa said...

It's never killed anyone while alcohol kills all the time. Something seems very wrong with this whole idea.

Also what happened when we had prohibition on alcohol? People made it themselves and sold it and there was violence over it.

What is happening with pot prohibition? People are growing it themselves and selling it and there is violence.

I like you have never used pot in anyway but I would try it if it was legal and regulated (currently street stuff is often laced). I have a chronic illness and I'm in a lot of pain at times. I don't take OTC or RX pain killers because they are so hard on your body. So I just live in pain, while a natural pain killer is illegal. It pisses me off!

FYI Studies show middle age working and educated women making up a fair number of the pot users in this country.

Surviving and thriving on pennies said...

I know first hand how amazing marijuana is. I dabbled in drugs before kids. I am not perfect and was young/dumb. That being said I have never had an issue with marijuana because the only side affects I saw was that it made you tired and hungry.
My father had cancer for 2 years and the only way he made it through the day was smoking marijuana. It took away his pain and kept him eating. He had to take certain pills the doctors gave him and they all made him sick to his stomach. Marijuana kept him eating and healthy. Unfortunately he lost his cancer battle in November of last year. He was lucky enough to live in Oregon where medical marijuana is legal. He was in a small amount of daily pain until his last day of life. It should be legal.

Crunchy Chicken said...

koolchicken - equa yona is correct in that the government blocks studies done on cannabis. There has been a push for doing double blind studies on the use of mj for a number of different conditions (migraine being one of them) and doctors and scientists want to see the studies done but they are blocked.

Anonymous - Cannabis is purportedly very effective on ADHD as well as OCD and Tourette's. There are particular strains (?) that work better than others. Like Heidi mentioned it has to do with the ratio of CBDs to THC.

Dale - That's what WA state is trying to do by legalizing it - balance the budget.

Finally, I know a number of people who would benefit from its use. It's ridiculous that alcohol is legal, but not marijuana.

Jennie said...

It's also a bronchial dilator and I've used a vaporizer for years to control my mild asthma. (I use it for fun too, alcoholism runs in the family so I feel safer using pot than a beer to relax at the end of the day.)

Hemp fibers are soooo useful and when this country was founded every farmer was expected to grow hemp for the good of the nation. There were HUGE ag-prop pushes during the first WW to increase the hemp grown "to win the war!"

Making it illegal was the worst idea ever.

online pharmacies said...

It also depends on how you use marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Anonymous said...

As a cop, I and many of my co-workers would never use MJ. We do not care to feel the lack of control over our behavior.

I will say this, however, I have NEVER had to fight a person who is high on MJ. Drunks are always the most violent. I have been dispatched to many a calls for drunk(s) fighting. I have never been dispatched to a scene for a high person being violent.

I would much rather see MJ legalized and monitored like alcohol (21 and over for use, No driving under the influence, etc.).

It is my personal belief that the added benefit would also undermine the Mexican cartels dealing in MJ and flooding the US and other countries.

My 2 cents.

lisa said...

I just read a comment that I thought was Super Funny--I even actually laughed out loud (not just lol). Then I realized it was I who made the comment some time back.

Is that conceited? haha

meg- grow and resist said...

Very strongly pro-medical marijuana. Well, very strongly legalizing for that matter.
But medically speaking it has far less side effects and far more uses than narcotics.
And not the fakey marinol rx...the real stuff.

SurprisingWoman said...

I can't smoke MJ. I have hayfever to grasses and trees and MJ is "grass." I wish I could. The pressure in my eyes is 27 and 27 and my father lost an eye to high pressure.

I think it's needed to be legalized for a long, long time. The taxes could do so much for our schools. I have friends that have used it when they have had to take different medications and couldn't eat. I think it's wonderful.

I think the only reason it isn't legal is because the gov't is scared people would grow their own and they would lose out on all the lovely tax money. Why else keep it illegal? It is certainly safer than alcohol.

I try it every once in a while to see if the reaction is so strong it isn't worth the side effects. My other hay fever isn't as bad as I have gotten older. As soon as I find I can handle the side effects without them being too severe I will be having regular treatments of MJ to try and reduce the pressure in my eyes.