I’ve been working in the cannabis industry since fall of 2016. In working with Natural Health Services, the patients, educators, and doctors, I have learned more about the cannabis plant and the medicinal benefits. With increasing knowledge and exposure, comes increasing respect for the plant’s ability to help patients who may be dealing with chronic pain, insomnia, MS, epilepsy, depression, anxiety, or who need help to reduce or eliminate opioid and alcohol use.

I have also gained an immense respect for our patients. They work with our doctors and educators to incorporate medical cannabis into their lives, despite the general public’s bias around the plant. The bias surrounding cannabis as a whole continues to stem largely from a prohibition mindset.

Demographically, baby boomers and senior citizens are the largest growing segment of the population turning to medicinal cannabis. The patients who come into our clinics across Canada are often looking for healthier alternatives to treat their chronic ailments. Often they are looking to augment the effects of their current medications, or to wean off their current medication, with doctor supervision.

These patients are often moving into personally unchartered water. Which means they may be going against their friends, families, and possibly their General Practitioner’s advice. That and they are also dealing with the negative biases in the general population.

They are often encouraged to think again around their alternative choices. Patients might be told that doctors know best when they prescribe them opioids for ailments like chronic pain, that prescription drugs would be covered by health insurance, and that the side effects are all part of journey to a pain-free life. New research says otherwise.

 

“All truth passes through three stages.

First, it is ridiculed.

Second, it is violently opposed.

Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

Arthur Schopenhauer, 1788 – 1860, German Philosopher

 

Cannabis is seemingly in all three stages (depending on who you talk to). But like anything, education can help those who oppose cannabis understand the life changing benefits it can have. Education will slowly chip away at terms like ‘weed’, ‘dope’ and ‘pothead’. We don’t call a wine aficionado a ‘drunk’ or a ‘boozer’. People who have been prescribed opioids from their doctor aren’t labeled ‘pill poppers’, despite those drugs often having an addictive and impairing effect. Well-meaning people may smirk about cannabis being medicinal.

The old *nudge nudge wink wink*. To these people I say:

  • Cannabis was recently legalized for medicinal use, not just recently invented. The history of cannabis use goes back as far as 12,000 years; It’s one of humanity’s oldest cultivated crops. Cannabis was added to the schedule of banned substances in 1923, without any parliamentary, or for that matter, public debate.
  • When cannabis was banned in the 1930’s, physicians fought to keep it.  It was a regular part of their treatment protocol, typically in tincture form. Now, almost 100 years later, the healthcare industry landscape has gone through fundamental changes, often (but not always) for good. Pharmaceutical companies have made double blind studies the gold standard, and the only method and index doctors typically feel comfortable with. These types of studies work best for single active ingredient drugs that exist in single target pharmaceuticals. It is virtually impossible to transfer this type of test to the hundreds of active ingredients in the cannabis plant, which works on a systemic level in our bodies. But saying that that is the only way to determine value in medicine is a bit like saying we must test a fish’s ability to climb a tree.
  • Canada is progressively able to do more research, and many studies are now being funded in and through universities. In the US, cannabis for medicinal purposes (accessed through a physician’s care) is legal in 30 states, and is legal for adult recreational use in 9 states. However, research is not advanced in the US.  Hampered, by the plant’s federally illegal status. Globally, the leader in cannabis research is Israel. Funding for the over 100 clinical trials in Israel comes from their own government, as well as foreign governments including Canada, Australia, Germany and the US. Despite the US declaring cannabis as a ‘Schedule I’ drug (along with heroin, LSD, and cocaine), the US has at least 15 companies who have set up research operations in Israel around the medicinal benefits of cannabis.
  • It is evident that many patients are turning to cannabis in addition to, or in lieu of, potentially damaging medications that may lead to tolerance and dependency, and at times causing organ damage or death. According to the Government of Canada, there were 3,987 apparent opioid related deaths in Canada in 2017. That same year, an estimated 2 million people in the states suffered from substance use disorder related to prescription opioid. Conversely, cannabis has not proven harmful to internal organs or the digestive tract. Throughout history, no one has ever died from cannabis use.
  • The health conscious, including professional athletes, have been fighting for the right to use cannabis as a health measure for decades. They are very aware of how to keep their health in check.  Physical and mental mindfulness and fine tuning is a critical part of their routine, beliefs, and livelihood.

If you are a patient of medical cannabis and you are feeling public or private scrutiny or judgment due to your cannabis use, you are not alone. But the norms are shifting. Rest assured, we are not far from the third stage of the Schopenhauer quote above, where the wisdom and intelligence behind using this plant mindfully and with respect will be “accepted as being self-evident”.

— Kait Shane, Community Outreach Educator Natural Health Services. Follow Natural Health Services on Twitter @NatHealthserve.

For further insight into all things cannabis, don’t forget to check out The Cannabis Show (new episodes every Wednesday) and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The Cannabis Show is also available as an audio podcast, subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, TuneIn, and Overcast.

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