The legal status of cannabis use, for medical as well as recreational purposes, varies internationally as well as across the United States. At the federal level, cannabis remains classified as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning it is believed to have a high potential for dependency and no accepted medical use.
According to the Institute of Medicine, roughly 33% of the U.S. population suffers from chronic pain, relying on dangerous opioids, ultimately worsening the opioid crisis that already claims 100-plus American lives daily, half of which involved a prescription opioid.
Medical cannabis is a proven and effective alternative to opioids for addressing chronic pain: 64% of patients utilizing medical marijuana to control chronic pain report a reduction in their opioid use, and opioid deaths decreased in states with medical cannabis laws by as much as 25%, as well as a 23% reduction in hospitalizations related to opioid dependence or abuse. In addition to eliminating the unnecessary and untimely deaths, medical cannabis can also reduce healthcare costs.
Even though many states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico all passed medical cannabis legislation, many remain ineligible to participate in programs secondary to federal-state legal conflict, inadequacies in state laws, and lack of medical professional and patient education.
If we can get past the negative biases of marijuana, we can help educate others on the health benefits it offers:
• Helps relieve nausea and vomiting in some chemotherapy patients
• Stimulates appetite and weight gain in AIDS, cancer, and anorexia nervosa patients
• Decreases spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis (MS)
• Could help with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
• Relieves symptoms associated with spinal cord injury
• Can help with epilepsy by relieving convulsions
• Could inhibit tumor growth in breast cancers, melanoma
• Can help with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
• Could alleviate chronic pain
• Reduces headaches and migraine attacks
• Could help with osteoarthritis by preventing cartilage breakdown
• Can help with symptoms associated with fibromyalgia
• Could help with osteoporosis by stimulating bone formation
• Could prevent degenerative disc disease
• Can improve symptoms associated with dystonia up to 50%
• Could weaken the progression of Huntington’s disease
• Helps with the movement disorders associated with Parkinson’s disease.
This call to action is to advocate and encourage federal cannabis reform by supporting the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act decriminalizing cannabis on the federal level by removing it from the list of controlled substances while providing certain social reforms to address detrimental repercussions the War on Drugs have left us with.
Let’s end the conflict of laws between federal and state governments, as well as improve facilitation of research on medical cannabis in the United States on a federal, academic, and private level. Most importantly, we have a golden opportunity to take a stance and help irradicate the opioid epidemic.
Kaitlin Moran is a Registered Nurse at the University of Connecticut.