The Marijuana Ad You Won’t See During the Super Bowl

By Pat Anson, PNN Editor

The hype over Super Bowl LIII between the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots took a back seat this week to a debate over the benefits of medical marijuana.

The February 3 game is being broadcast by CBS, which rejected a 30-second Super Bowl ad by Acreage Holdings -- the cannabis company that recently hired former House speaker John Boehner as a spokesman. Along with the other broadcast networks, CBS currently does not accept any cannabis related advertising.

The Acreage ad features 3 cannabis users -- a boy who suffers from epilepsy, a man who took opioid medication for 15 years for back pain, and a military veteran who suffers from phantom limb pain after losing a leg in the service. The ad doesn’t promote Acreage products, but urges viewers to call their congressional representatives and advocate for medical marijuana.

“We’re disappointed by the news but somewhat unsurprised,” Acreage President George Allen told CNN Business. “Still, we developed the ad in the spirit of a public service announcement. We feel it’s our responsibility to advocate on behalf of our patients.”

The chief marketing officer for Acreage was less diplomatic.

“You will see countless ads (during the Super Bowl) for beer and erectile dysfunction medications but our ad with an educational goal to help people who are suffering is rejected. That is the irony we are looking to highlight,” Harris Damashek told the Green Entrepreneur.

A 30-second ad during the Super Bowl would have cost Acreage over $5 million, but the company is getting a lot of free publicity over the controversy.  A 60-second version of the ad was posted on YouTube.

Medical marijuana is legal in 33 states and Washington DC, but remains illegal under federal law. Although cannabis is a banned substance in the NFL, many current and former players use it for pain relief.

“When you compare it to what the alternative is in their training rooms; pills, pills, pills, that are being put into these guys’ hands and turning them into addicts,” former NFL player Nate Jackson told PNN. “I was never big on those pills. I medicated with marijuana and it helped me and I think it helped save my brain.”

Although the NFL has a reputation as a league that closely monitors and disciplines players for illegal drug use,  Jackson estimates over half its players currently use marijuana to relieve pain and stress after games.

Medical Cannabis Effective for Elderly Pain Patients

By Pat Anson, Editor

Medical marijuana can significantly reduce chronic pain in elderly patients without adverse effects, according to a new study by Israeli researchers that found many patients were also able stop or reduce their use of opioid medication.

Researchers at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) surveyed over 2,700 patients 65 years or older who received medical cannabis. Over 60 percent of the patients were prescribed cannabis for chronic pain due to cancer, Parkinson's disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, multiple sclerosis or other medical issues.

drug policy alliance image

drug policy alliance image

After six months of treatment, more than 93 percent of respondents reported their pain dropped from a median of eight to four on a 10-point pain scale. Nearly 60 percent who originally reported "bad" or "very bad" quality of life said their lives had improved to "good" or "very good." And over 70 percent reported moderate to significant improvement in their medical condition.

About a third of the patients used cannabis-infused oil, about 24 percent smoked marijuana, and about six percent used a vaporizer. The most common side effects from cannabis use were dizziness and dry mouth, researchers reported in The European Journal of Internal Medicine .

"We found medical cannabis treatment significantly relieves pain and improves quality of life for seniors with minimal side effects reported," said Victor Novack, MD, a professor of medicine at BGU and head of the Soroka Cannabis Clinical Research Institute.

"While older patients represent a large and growing population of medical cannabis users, few studies have addressed how it affects this particular group, which also suffers from dementia, frequent falls, mobility problems, and hearing and visual impairments."

The survey found that nearly one in five patients stopped using opioid medication or reduced their dose. The findings are at odds with a recent study by the RAND Corporation, which found that medical marijuana laws in the U.S. have not reduced demand for prescription opioids.

Medical marijuana has been legal in Israel since the early 1990s. Israel’s Ministry of Health still considers cannabis a “dangerous drug,” but adds “there is evidence that cannabis could help patients suffering from certain medical conditions and alleviate their suffering.”

A recent survey found about 27 percent of Israeli adults have used cannabis in the past year, one of the highest rates in the world.

Strong Support for Cannabis Rx in Comments to FDA

By Pat Anson, Editor

The Food and Drug Administration may have gotten more than it bargained for when it asked for public comments about the medical value and abuse potential of 17 different drugs.

The agency wound up getting over 6,400 comments in the Federal Register, the vast majority of them from people advocating for cannabidiol (CBD) -- one of the active ingredients in medical marijuana.  

Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the substance in marijuana that makes people high, CBD-based oils and medications relieve pain, and are increasingly being used to treat a variety of medical conditions.  

“CBD's are not a way to get high as THC is. These oils have so many beneficial uses for anxiety, stress, pain, joint issues, muscular issues, arthritis, seizures, Parkinson's, cancer,” wrote Tami Camp in her public comment. “We need natural herbs, not man-made poisons!”

“CBD helps me with my chronic nerve pain, in a way that prescription medications can't match,” wrote Jason Turgeon.

“I've been consistently using CBD oil now for three months and have noticed an uptick in my moods, a reduction of joint pain, and my sleeping cycles at night have improved as my sleep is deeper and I wake up feeling refreshed,” wrote Kerry Meier.

Public opinion polls show that these are not isolated comments or marijuana supporters trying to game the system by flooding the Federal Register with comments. A recent poll by CBS News found 85% of Americans favor medical marijuana use.

drug policy alliance photo

drug policy alliance photo

But while medical cannabis may be legal in 29 states and the District of Columbia, marijuana is still classified as an illegal Schedule I controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration, right alongside heroin and LSD.

The FDA opened the cannabis can of worms at the behest of the World Health Organization (WHO), which is not only reviewing the safety and effectiveness of CBD, but 16 other drugs -- including pregabalin, tramadol, ketamine, and several chemical cousins of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid blamed for thousands of overdose deaths. 

WHO is seeking input from the FDA on whether international restrictions should be placed on any of the drugs. Under the Controlled Substances Act, the FDA was required to seek public comment in the Federal Register before responding to WHO -- perhaps not anticipating the overwhelmingly positive response that CBD would get. 

“Cannabidiol should not be restricted because CBD is not addictive, nor does it have the potential for abuse nor should it be tied to hallucinogenic drugs. Therefore, no international restrictions should be placed on CBD,” wrote Steve Easterly.

“For cannabis to be scheduled as a class I drug is ludicrous especially when the entire prohibition of cannabis was based on lies,” wrote Mike Copple. “What a shameful spectacle that we the people still have to argue about the usefulness of the cannabis plant. Cannabis has and continues to help me in many ways both physically and mentally.”

“I want cannabis to be legalized and available for over the counter sale. I have known several people who have benefited for various conditions from anxiety, depressions, MS, arthritis and epilepsy,” wrote Nancy Scott-Puopolo.

The public comment period ended on Wednesday. You can look at other responses in the Federal Register by clicking here

Mixed Reviews of Lyrica

There were only a few dozen comments about pregabalin (Lyrica), a prescription medication that millions of Americans take for fibromyalgia, neuropathy and other chronic pain conditions. As PNN has reported, WHO is investigating reports that pregabalin is being abused by addicts.

“Patients are self-administering higher than recommended doses (of pregabalin) to achieve euphoria, especially patients who have a history of substance abuse, particularly opioids, and psychiatric illness,” WHO told the FDA..

The public comments about pregabalin were mixed at best.

“I have been on several medications prior to being switched to Lyrica about six months ago. I actually feel nothing while taking the drug, and assume you would indeed have to take lots to maybe feel high,” wrote Mary. “Not sure if it helps my fibromyalgia or not since I still have lots of pain.”

“I take pregabalin in Lyrica form twice a day currently for nerve pain and fibromyalgia. I cannot accurately express the relief this has brought me,” wrote Renee.

“I have tried many, many medications. When I tried Lyrica, the side effects were horrible. I couldn't even lift my head without severe dizziness and the room spinning,” said Lora Berry.  

“I take Lyrica and all I got from it was fatter,” said Debra Winegar. “CBD oil is wonderful. Take a few drops under the tongue and I'm good to go. Narcotics are needed when my pain is out of control. I'm tired of waiting to be pain free. Legalize pot now!”

Will the FDA now report to WHO that thousands of American citizens want CBD-based medications fully legalized?  The FDA notice in the Federal Register only notes that public comments “will be considered” when the FDA prepares its scientific and medical evaluation. The FDA report to WHO is due September 30.

9 out of 10 Patients Prefer Cannabis Over Opioids

By Pat Anson, Editor

A survey of nearly 3,000 medical marijuana users has found that 9 out of 10 patients prefer cannabis over opioid medication when managing their chronic pain. A similar number prefer cannabis over non-opioid pain relievers such as Tylenol or Advil.

The survey was conducted by researchers at the University of California Berkeley and HelloMD, a website that links patients to doctors in California and New York that prescribe medical marijuana. The survey was administered by email to a HelloMD database of cannabis patients who were asked how marijuana affected their consumption of opioids and other pain relievers.

Eighty percent of those surveyed said that cannabis was more effective at relieving pain than opioid medication and 97 percent said they decreased their opioid use when using cannabis. The latter finding supports previous research that found use of prescription pain medication declining in states where medical marijuana is legal.

“The results of our study were striking, showing 97% of people were able to decrease the amount of opioids that they used in conjunction with cannabis use. This was more than double the amount shown in any previous studies conducted,” said Perry Solomon, MD, Chief Medical Officer of HelloMD.

DRUG POLICY ALLIANCE

DRUG POLICY ALLIANCE

“The (study) clearly showed that chronic pain is one of the medical conditions that cannabis can be used for with great efficacy. Our study not only supports this but also goes further in that the clear majority of patient’s state that they prefer it. Hopefully this will awaken the public, medical professionals and legislatures to the fact that there is a safe, non-addictive product available to help fight the opioid epidemic, and that is cannabis.”

Other key findings from the survey of medical marijuana users:

  • 93% said they prefer cannabis to opioids
  • 92% said cannabis' side effects were more tolerable than side effects from opioids
  • 90% said cannabis works well with non-opioid pain relievers
  • 96% said they need fewer non-opioid pain relievers when using cannabis
  • 89% said cannabis was more effective than non-opioid pain relievers

"With cannabis not only becoming more accepted in the mainstream but also coming in a variety of preparations, some of which are nonintoxicating, more people are looking at cannabis as a viable treatment for everyday ailments such as muscle soreness and inflammation,” wrote Amanda Reiman, PhD, of UC Berkeley and the Drug Policy Alliance, lead author of the study published in the journal of Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.

“Participants in this study overwhelmingly supported the notion that they would be more likely to use cannabis as a substitute for pain medication if it were less stigmatized and more available, suggesting that there are populations of people who could benefit from this practice but are shying away due to the stigma and legal restrictions related to cannabis use.”

The survey should not be considered a scientific study on the effectiveness of cannabis, because participants were self-selected and reported their perceptions about cannabis use, as opposed to an objective measurement by a third party. There was also no control group of pain patients who only had access to opioids and other pain relievers.

A small study last year by the University of Michigan found that nearly two-thirds (64%) of medical marijuana patients reported a reduction in their use of prescription pain medications.

A 2014 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that opioid overdoses declined by nearly 25 percent in states where medical marijuana was legalized.

A Safe Way to Healthy, Restorative Sleep

By Ellen Lenox Smith, Columnist

For many of us suffering from chronic pain, coping with our medical issues can be physically and emotionally draining. Often, the lack of healthy sleep is the culprit.

Living with Ehlers Danlos syndrome (EDS) and sarcoidosis, I used to constantly wake up in the middle of the night with so much pain it was impossible to get any form of rest. When I was teaching, I somehow went for years trying to teach on “empty” due to a chronic lack of restorative sleep.

I remember having to cheat and use a seating chart to remember the names of my wonderful students, who were sitting right in front of me. These were students I had known, loved and taught for months. It was embarrassing, heartbreaking, and created a sense of loss and hopelessness.

Thankfully, those days are gone. I have gone from years of almost no quality sleep to being someone who goes to bed at night and wakes up in the morning feeling well rested. I don’t even remember any dreams, so I am getting the real REM sleep!

How did I do it? A teaspoon of oil made from medical marijuana. I take it before bedtime, mixed with a little applesauce or a small amount of food.

Within an hour, my body is ready for bed and sleep. 

For years I made this oil at home on top of the stove, but today enjoy using the Magical Butter machine. We find that oil made from the indica strain of marijuana works best for sleep. Directions for making the oil can be found on our website. 

I am now both a medical marijuana patient and a caregiver in the state of Rhode Island. Patients visit us with a variety of different illnesses, but the one thing they all have in common is lack of sleep. Without sleep, you lose hope and courage to move forward with your life. Each patient that has tried this oil has found that it gives them rest and hope.

Recently, a young woman and her husband came to our home. Living with both EDS and Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), she had a difficult life, but was hoping to find something to make it easier. We have the same pain doctor and he suggested she get in touch with us to learn about cannabis. 

The first night that she tried the oil, she slept for eight hours and was both thrilled and shocked. She said even her face looked calmer and more rested.  She is now happier, hopeful and has more strength to get through the day.

There was another patient sent to us who was a paraplegic in constant pain. He was angry, miserable and wished he hadn’t been given life-saving surgery after his accident. He was at a loss as to what to do to cope with the life he was now given. 

He tried the oil and was shocked what it did for him. From that point on, the desperate man who first called me and couldn’t even be understood due to his level of pain, was happy, laughing and finding some meaning in his difficult life. He later passed, but the oil gave him a better quality of life and a sense of purpose again.

We have seen one success after another of pain patients getting real quality sleep and rest. We have seen it work for cancer patients, and those suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder, multiple sclerosis, back pain, fibromyalgia, arthritis and other conditions.

For those of you who are caught up in opioid hysteria and can no longer get medication, I hope you take a moment and think about trying cannabis oil at night for rest. I have used it safely for a decade, since I am not able to metabolize even an aspirin or Tylenol, let alone any opiate. May you find the courage to try it and get the same results.

Ellen Lenox Smith suffers from Ehlers Danlos syndrome and sarcoidosis.  Ellen and her husband Stuart are co-directors for medical marijuana advocacy for the U.S. Pain Foundation and serve as board members for the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition.

For more information about medical marijuana or to contact the Smith's, visit their website.

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.

Do Men Get More Pain Relief From Marijuana?

By Pat Anson, Editor

Experts tell us that women are more likely to experience chronic pain than men, feel pain more intensely, and are more likely to be undertreated for pain than men are.

The gender gap in pain grew a little wider this week with a new study, published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, which claims women get far less pain relief from smoking marijuana than men do.

"These findings come at a time when more people, including women, are turning to the use of medical cannabis for pain relief," said lead author Ziva Cooper, PhD, associate professor of clinical neurobiology at Columbia University Medical Center. "Preclinical evidence has suggested that the experience of pain relief from cannabis-related products may vary between sexes, but no studies have been done to see if this is true in humans."

Cooper and her colleagues conducted two double-blinded, placebo-controlled studies that looked at the analgesic effects of cannabis in 42 healthy recreational marijuana smokers – half of them men and half women.

All smoked marijuana at least four times a week prior to enrolling in the study. Participants were excluded if they had pain.

After smoking the same amount of cannabis or a placebo, the participants immersed one hand in a cold-water bath until the pain could no longer be tolerated. Following the immersion, the participants answered a short pain questionnaire.

Among those who smoked cannabis, men reported a significant decrease in pain sensitivity and an increase in pain tolerance. But the women who smoked cannabis did not experience a significant decrease in pain sensitivity, although they did report a small increase in pain tolerance shortly after smoking.

No gender differences were found in how intoxicated the participants felt or how much they liked the effect of cannabis.

“These results indicate that in cannabis smokers, men exhibit greater cannabis-induced analgesia relative to women,” said Cooper.  “Sex-dependent differences in cannabis’s analgesic effects are an important consideration that warrants further investigation when considering the potential therapeutic effects of cannabinoids for pain relief.”

A marijuana advocate and caregiver for patients in Rhode Island said she was shocked by the study findings.

"This study concerns me that some women will read this and not even try the most magical pain relief out there," said Ellen Lenox Smith, a columnist for Pain News Network. "We have never, in the nine years of growing for myself and as caregivers for patients, ever had a time that this was not successful because of one's sex. We have had equal amounts of men and women and the only person that did not have success was an elderly woman that was not able to follow the directions due to her anxiety of using it. That was due to the stigma from society, not the product."

Do women really respond differently to marijuana or is there a flaw in the study itself?

Previous research has found that women respond differently to the cold water test and have far less tolerance for pain induced by cold water immersion than men.

“Most studies have used some form of the cold pressor test in which subjects immerse their arm or hand in circulating cold water for a defined period of time, and their results support the hypothesis that cold pain sensitivity is more pronounced in females,” researchers reported in a 2009 review of nearly two dozen studies that used the cold water test.  “Based on the present set of studies, it appears that sex differences in cold pain are consistent, particularly for suprathreshold measures such as tolerance and pain ratings.”

The Columbia University study was funded by the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Ziva Cooper also received salary support from Insys Therapeutics, which is developing cannabis-based drugs.

Marijuana Based Drug Effective in Treating Epilepsy

By Pat Anson, Editor

A British pharmaceutical company has released positive results from a Phase 3 clinical study of an experimental drug derived from marijuana.

GW Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: GWPH) reported that the drug – called Epidiolex – significantly reduced seizures in patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a rare form of childhood epilepsy. Epidiolex contains cannabidiol (CBD) a chemical compound found in marijuana that does not produce the “high” associated with cannabis plants.

“From a physician’s perspective, the positive outcome in this trial of Epidiolex in patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome is very exciting. Lennox-Gastaut syndrome begins in early childhood, is particularly difficult to treat, and the vast majority of patients do not obtain an adequate response from existing therapies,” said study investigator Linda Laux, MD, Director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.

“I am excited about the prospect of Epidiolex being made available on prescription in the future and believe it has the potential to make an important difference to the lives of many patients.”

The placebo controlled study involved 171 patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. Epidiolex reduced the number of seizures in a month by 44 percent, compared with those taking a placebo medication that reduced seizures by 22 percent.

In March, another Phase 3 trial of Epidiolex also showed positive results in children with Dravet syndrome, another form of childhood epilepsy. GW is also conducting a Phase 3 trial of Epidiolex in Tuberous Sclerosis Complex and expects to initiate a Phase 3 trial of Epidiolex in infantile spasms in the fourth quarter of this year.

If approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the drug would be the first cannabis derived drug to win approval for the treatment of childhood epilepsy. Epidiolex has both Orphan Drug Designation and Fast Track Designation from the FDA. GW plans to formally file for FDA approval later this year.

GW is already marketing a marijuana-based oral spray called Sativex that is being sold in Europe, Canada and Mexico to treat muscle tightness and contractions caused by multiple sclerosis. Canada also allows Sativex to be used for the treatment of neuropathic pain and advanced cancer pain.

Sativex is not currently approved for use in the U.S. for any condition. It is estimated that over 400,000 cancer patients in the U.S. suffer from pain that is not well controlled by opioid pain medications. However, two recent Phase 3 studies found that Sativex worked no better than a placebo in treating cancer pain.

DEA: Decision Not Made on Marijuana Legalization

By Pat Anson, Editor

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is considering, but has not yet made a final decision on whether to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II controlled substance, a move that would essentially make medical marijuana legal in all 50 states.

Last week two media outlets, the Santa Monica Observer and the Denver Post published reports speculating that marijuana could be rescheduled sometime this summer. The Observer even set a date for the announcement – August 1st – and cited an unnamed “Los Angeles based DEA Attorney” as the source of the information.

"Whatever the law may be in California, Arizona or Utah or any other State, because of Federal preemption this will have the effect of making THC products legal with a prescription, in all 50 states," the Observer quoted the DEA lawyer as saying.

The two stories fueled rampant speculation in blogs and on social media that a rescheduling of marijuana was imminent. Snopes.com even published its own take on the rumors, calling them “unproven.”

“There is as yet no indication that the information published on the topic was accurate, and there has been no official confirmation the DEA would moving in that direction on 1 August 2016,” Snopes said.

“We don’t have anything official to report,” DEA spokesman Rusty Payne confirmed to Pain News Network.

Like many rumors, there is some truth in the details. In a letter sent several months ago to Sen. Elizabeth Warren and seven other U.S. senators, a DEA official said the agency was finally getting around to making a decision on a five year old petition to reschedule marijuana.

“And in that letter we said we hoped to have a decision around July first. That’s certainly not a deadline, that’s just neighborhood ballpark, around that time. So people are getting antsy as the time is getting nearer,” said Payne, adding that DEA would not be making the decision alone.

“The agency that determines whether or not something is a medicine is the FDA, not the DEA. That’s why we have to rely on their portion of an in-depth study to determine whether or not something should be rescheduled or essentially determined to be a medicine. And if the FDA rules something is not a medicine, we’re bound by that. We cannot move it ourselves. We can’t overrule or override FDA on that,” said Payne.

The DEA has already received a recommendation from the FDA on whether to reschedule marijuana, but has not disclosed it. In the past, both agencies have resisted any attempt to legalize marijuana at the federal level, even as dozens of states moved to legalize medical marijuana.

In 2011, the DEA rejected a similar petition, saying “the known risks of marijuana use have not been shown to be outweighed by specific benefits in well-controlled clinical trials that scientifically evaluate safety and efficacy.”

Marijuana is currently classified as Schedule I drug – along with heroin and LSD – because it is considered to have no medical benefit and has a high potential for abuse. Moving it into the Schedule II classification, along with opioids such as hydrocodone and oxycodone, could potentially make marijuana available by prescription in all 50 states.    

Such a decision would upend the $40 billion medical marijuana industry, which is mostly composed of small companies and dispensaries that have created a niche for themselves while dealing with a cornucopia of state laws and municipal regulations. Rescheduling would open the door for pharmaceutical companies and pharmacies to get into the marijuana business.

"Schedule II would be a nightmare for the cannabis industry," Andrew Ittleman, a lawyer for a Miami law firm that advises marijuana companies, said in Inc.

Most Medical Marijuana Patients Benefit From Treatment

By Pat Anson, Editor

Over 90 percent of long term medical marijuana patients reported significant improvement in their pain and nausea while using cannabis, according to researchers at Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

Medical marijuana has been legal in Israel for over 10 years, but this was the first in-depth study of patients who have a cannabis prescription from Israel’s Ministry of Health.

"Although medical cannabis has been legal for a decade and is licensed to patients to relieve pain and other symptoms, there has been no information about the users themselves," said Pesach Shvartzman, a professor at Ben-Gurion’s Faculty of Health Sciences.

The study examined more than 2,000 cancer and non-cancer patients using medical marijuana. Almost all said they sought a cannabis prescription after trying conventional treatments that were ineffective. Patients were interviewed by telephone in the first three months of treatment and subsequently every four months for two years. 

Users reported that their pain, nausea, anxiety, appetite, and general feeling had improved. Fewer than one in 10 stopped using marijuana due to side effects or ineffectiveness after the first interview, and only six percent after the second interview.

About three out of four patients experienced minor side effects that included dry mouth, hunger, sleepiness or “high” sensations.

Three-quarters of the patients smoked marijuana, while one in five used a vaporizer or cannabis oil.

Israel still considers cannabis a “dangerous drug” and it is not registered as a medicine. However, the Ministry of Health says “there is evidence that cannabis could help patients suffering from certain medical conditions and alleviate their suffering.”

There are over 20,000 registered marijuana users in Israel. About 50 new users are approved each week by the Health Ministry.

Ministry of Health regulations allow for medical marijuana to be used to treat cancer symptoms and to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy. Eight farms have Ministry of Health permission to grow cannabis for medicinal use, and four companies have permission to deliver cannabis to cancer patients.

Legalizing Marijuana? Don’t Forget its Medical Use

By Ellen Lenox Smith, Columnist

At least half a dozen states may be joining Colorado and Washington in the full legalization of marijuana. As a medical marijuana patient in Rhode Island, that has never been my battle. I have tried to stay focused on improving medical marijuana laws in Rhode Island and 23 other states, such as expanding the conditions for which it can be prescribed to include chronic pain and other medical issues.

It is mind boggling to me that some states have not yet approved marijuana’s medical use, but seem to be jumping right into legalization, most likely because they see it as a way to generate tax revenue.

We must hold onto the medical programs and be sure they are not mixed into the rules for full legalization. That would be like allowing medication from the pharmacy available to anyone to enjoy for pleasure. This is our medicine.

I have no problem with others having the pleasure of using cannabis socially, but let’s make sure we maintain the integrity of the medical programs.

This is our vision for every state in this country in the near future:

1) Medical marijuana is approved in all states and it includes reciprocity from state to state so we are safe to medicate legally when we travel.

2) Patients qualify when their doctors confirm they have a need and cannabis is no longer limited to specific conditions. There are many less common ones that can be treated effectively with this medication. 

3) Patients have a choice of growing, which is both therapeutic and helpful for those who find strains they are compatible with.

4) Each state offers compassion centers or dispensaries that are strategically placed so all have access within a reasonable distance.

5) Prices at these centers are affordable and on a sliding scale. Many who are afflicted with health issues already have massive medical bills. We do not want to have the mindset of making a large profit off the sale of their medication.

6) When all states are legal, we then conquer the battle of being reimbursed for our medicine from our insurance companies.

7) Allow centers to grow the plants they need to accommodate patients with all of the various strains. 

      8) Allow centers to sell various forms of medical marijuana, including dry product, oils, tinctures, topicals, edibles, etc.

      9) Allow a delivery system for those seriously ill and a gifting program to those financially unable to pay.

     10) All centers grow organically, keeping us safe from pesticides and other chemicals.

     11) People using medical marijuana will have the legal right not be drug tested, discriminated or fired from employment.

As the demand for full legalization continues to spread across the country, please help your state maintain the integrity of its medical program. Medical marijuana is intended to help us with quality of life, not to make a huge profit from. Let those that are using it for recreation be the ones to pay taxes and bring in the revenue for your state.

Let’s keep this medicine affordable for those in need.  For those that do not need it for medical reasons, be glad you are able to use cannabis socially and not have to face issues like us!

Ellen Lenox Smith suffers from Ehlers Danlos syndrome and sarcoidosis.  Ellen and her husband Stuart are co-directors for medical marijuana advocacy for the U.S. Pain Foundation and serve as board members for the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition.

For more information about medical marijuana or to contact the Smith's, visit their website.

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.