Evaluating the Roadblocks in State Medical Marijuana Laws

medical marijuana lawsOn the surface, it seems like the United States is becoming more comfortable with medical marijuana. As more states are accepting marijuana use as a treatment for a variety of illnesses and conditions, it looks like we’re making moves forward. However, if you look beneath the surface, you’ll see there are still many roadblocks preventing marijuana from being a viable medical option.

Although states are allowing marijuana to be used for medical purposes, many of them aren’t making it easy for patients to secure the drug. For doctors and patients, there are often many hurdles both parties need to jump through.

Although states are allowing marijuana to be used for medical purposes, many of them aren’t making it easy for patients to secure the drug. For doctors and patients, there are often many hurdles both parties need to jump through.

Why are certain states still making it so difficult for patients to get a medical marijuana prescription? Let’s take a look.

The Marijuana Stigma in the United States

Marijuana use in the United States has had a long-standing stigma attached to it. Although it is a plant that comes with very few side effects, marijuana has frequently been put on the same level of more serious drugs such as heroin or cocaine. It has been viewed as a dangerous substance in the United States.

Many people believe cannabis can cause psychological damage to those that use it. While marijuana use can cause temporary anxiety or paranoia, many also believe it can lead to more serious conditions, like depression or bipolar disorder. For these reasons, they believe it should stay illegal and out of reach of American citizens.

It is only recently that people are starting to accept that marijuana may not be as bad as we had thought. With more states making it legal for individuals to purchase and use marijuana recreationally, we see certain segments of people starting to accept use of the drug. However, this doesn’t mean the idea is translating on a national level.

While certain states have their own laws relating to marijuana, it is still illegal in the United States. This awkward limbo between whether or not marijuana use is accepted is not only challenging for those looking to use the drug recreationally, but especially for those hoping to use it medically.

The stigma of marijuana doesn’t just apply to recreational users. There are still many people that do not approve of patients using medical marijuana, even if it is legal in the state they live in. This means that those who need the drug can come across many different roadblocks when trying to get a prescription.

Why Are People Scared of Medical Marijuana?

It seems that this preconceived notion about marijuana and marijuana users has caused many people to fear the use of cannabis in a medical situation. Because the drug is still illegal on a national level, many believe it should not be given out at all, even in medical situations. They believe that because the drug is illegal, it should be forbidden.

However, many people don’t stop to compare how marijuana stacks up against other legal substances or prescription drugs. If we consider the current state of the opioid addiction and the heroin epidemic, it is clear that even drugs pushed by doctors and pharmaceutical companies aren’t always safe for use.

Even more common prescriptions, such as antidepressants, can have negative side effects on those who take it. If we take a look at some of the psychological side effects of common antidepressants, we see they can cause everything from agitation to improper brain development.

If we can see that prescription drugs aren’t entirely safe, why is there still a stigma surrounding medical marijuana use?

Many people fear medical cannabis because it may make it easier for those without a prescription to gain access to the drug. If some individuals can purchase marijuana legally, it may then be resold the same way other prescription drugs are sold illegally. The fear that medical marijuana may open the doors to an increase in recreational marijuana use is real for many people.

What This Stigma Means for the Medical World

Because medical marijuana is still a controversial subject, many doctors and patients struggle to effectively use the drug as a kind of treatment. While the drug may be legal in the state they work or live in, it can still be incredibly difficult to obtain.

The federal laws surrounding medical marijuana make it a touchy subject for just about everyone. Major banks and financial institutions don’t want to get involved in the process, making it difficult for medical marijuana growers to find their footing. This then lowers the supply, pushing up the demand and making it even more difficult and expensive for patients to obtain.

The cost of establishing a medical marijuana operation is no joke. For example, Pennsylvania charges a $10,000 fee just for submitting a growing-processing operation application and then a $200,000 permit fee. This kind of setup is present in many states, and these financial hurdles can make it difficult for market entries, which decreases the supply to patients.

Additionally, many states have very slim lists of conditions that qualify a patient for medical marijuana treatment, and even the people who are approved often find the treatment process lengthy and difficult.

For example, although Florida has been praised for having a fairly reasonable list of qualifying conditions, patients must still surpass a 90-day waiting period before they can receive treatment. During this time, patients may continue to suffer from horribly painful symptoms related to conditions like cancer and epilepsy.

If a patient is unable to get medical marijuana from their doctor or a trusted dispensary, they may turn to illegal pathways to get the drug. For those suffering from pain or debilitating conditions, it may be worth it to buy marijuana illegally. While this can alleviate their symptoms, it also puts them in danger — all because states wanted to make it difficult for them to secure the drug legally.

Overcoming the Medical Marijuana Stigma

As the use of medical marijuana grows in the United States, there are some real things to consider. It’s justified to worry that medical marijuana may cross hands into someone without a prescription, but this is an overall problem with the drug and pharmaceutical industry — not just with cannabis.

However, this isn’t necessarily a reason to prevent those who need the drug from having access to it. Putting roadblocks up that make it difficult for both medical professionals and patients only leaves sick people suffering and doctors without the ability to help. We need to break down the stigma surrounding medical marijuana and recreational marijuana use.

Kate Harveston

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