Everything To Know About Medical Marijuana
Medical marijuana is now authorized in 33 states, and many medical professionals now support its usage for specific diseases affecting people over the age of 50. This year, the AARP Board of Directors considered new evidence suggesting that marijuana can help treat such conditions and symptoms, and approved a policy supporting the use of medical marijuana in states where it has been legalized, as well as further research on the medical use of cannabinoids to help alleviate disease symptoms and treatment side effects. Here are seven essential points to know:
1. You are completely on your own.
You might be thinking, “Hey, if it’s “medical,” a doctor will be able to guide me through this strange new world.” That isn’t always the case. A few customers have a medical marijuana taht they can buy on online dispensary Canada doctor who shows them how to use a vape pen and walks them through the items. That, however, is exceptional. Rick McKnight, 72, a retired sales executive from Ocala, Florida, who self-treats hip pain with marijuana, says, “Older people expect there will be a prescription waiting for them at the dispensary, like at a drugstore.” “That’s not the case. You obtain your medical marijuana identification card. The doctor makes suggestions rather than a prescription. “After that, you’re on your own.”
2. Dispensaries offer a bewildering array of things.
It’s like visiting an adults-only candy store, with tinctures and oils, vape pens and “flower” (dried marijuana), mouth sprays and skin patches, expensive chocolate truffles, cinnamon-scented biscuits, and sodas, balms, and lotions all laced with cannabis’ active chemicals. High-strength concentrates, waxes, and resins are also available. Free samples and in-store use are illegal, and what’s for sale varies by state.
3. Today’s cannabis is quite powerful.
“This is not the marijuana people smoked in dorm rooms in the 1970s,” explains Staci Gruber, head of the Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital’s Marijuana Investigations for Neuroscientific Discovery (MIND) program in Belmont, Massachusetts. “You must use caution.” For decades, clandestine marijuana farmers have been cross-breeding and choosing the highest-potency plants to produce more potent marijuana. The ingredient responsible for marijuana’s euphoric highs, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, was found in 4 percent of cannabis in 1995 and grew to 17 percent by 2017, according to research. It hasn’t come to an end yet. You may buy marijuana strains with up to 28 percent THC in sealed bags and rolled joints, as well as concentrates with 85 to 90 percent THC. Fortunately, there are a variety of products available that are low in THC and high in cannabidiol, or CBD, the other key cannabis ingredient.
Note that potency varies by strain and type, and determining a patient’s tolerance might be difficult. So, before a patient begins a cannabis-based medicinal treatment, he or she should speak with their doctor and proceed with caution; there is limited scientific study, and the effects vary by user, as with any prescription.
4. Edibles only appear to be low-risk.
After all, isn’t it only candy? That rainbow-hued gummy bear or tiny chocolate square, on the other hand, could include 10 milligrams of THC and CBD in it. That’s three to four times the amount recommended by specialists for seniors. “Edibles might take anywhere from 30 minutes to four hours to work. “You don’t feel anything after a few minutes, so it’s simple to eat more,” says Danielle Fixen, an assistant professor at the University of Colorado’s pharmacy department. “However, the effects continue for six to eight hours after that.”
5. There isn’t enough good science on the human impact.
The fundamental reason for this research void is that cannabis, whether medical or recreational, is classified as a Schedule I restricted substance in the United States, putting it on par with heroin, LSD, and illicit fentanyl. That’s why doctors can’t properly prescribe it; instead, they can only provide you state-mandated permission to use it. More importantly, most labs do not allow scientists to purchase it from a dispensary and study it. According to a thorough 2017 assessment by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, only a few of the most prevalent uses of cannabis are backed by strong data from human clinical trials (NASEM). Other common uses, such as dementia, cancer, fibromyalgia, glaucoma, depression, and even sleeplessness, are less well-supported, according to the NASEM specialists. “Conclusive information about the short- and long-term health impacts (harms and benefits) of cannabis usage remains elusive,” they conclude (although two years later).
Where Is Cannabis Legal?
All cannabis is prohibited to sell, possess, or use under federal law. In the face of growing support from states, the federal government is hesitant to enforce the restriction. Medical marijuana is legal in 33 states (including the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands); eligible patients must have a doctor’s certification and a patient card. State laws vary on important issues including who can grow it, who can sell it, and what health problems qualify. Marijuana is legal for recreational use in eleven states and the District of Columbia.
CBD (cannabidiol) derived from marijuana, which contains the psychoactive chemical THC, is banned under federal law; hemp-derived CBD, which has no more than 0.3 percent THC, is lawful to sell and consume – however the FDA says marketing CBD in food and supplements is forbidden. Thirteen states have approved legislation enabling CBD/low THC products to be sold. Details differ: For the most up-to-date information, consult your state’s laws. The National Conference of State Legislatures has further information.
6. Marijuana’s stoner reputation endures
Many elder proponents of medicinal marijuana continue to hide their usage, whether it’s due to a hangover from America’s decades-long drug war or the fact that marijuana is still illegal under federal law. According to Hillary Lum, a geriatrician and associate professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, the stigma associated using marijuana inhibits some patients from notifying their doctor. “According to a recent poll, 30% of older persons did not say whether or not they utilized medical marijuana,” she says. “People may be hesitant to tell their doctor if they are uncomfortable with it on an anonymous poll.” This could have a negative impact on their health.”
7. Many doctors are torn between two options.
In a 2019 poll, half of primary care doctors at Mayo Clinic medical offices claimed they weren’t prepared to answer patients’ inquiries regarding medical marijuana, despite the fact that 58 percent thought it was a valid medical therapy for terminal illnesses, untreatable pain, and cancer symptoms.
That hasn’t stopped some users, particularly the elderly, from addressing their physicians.
Lum says, “My patients want to talk about it.” “However, I’m in a state of information deprivation.” We don’t have a lot of clinical studies to back up our claims. It hasn’t been taught at medical schools, pharmacy schools, or nursing schools. I don’t have a lot of information regarding potential drug interactions and side effects because it’s not in the pharmacy database we use for prescribing.”
Only a few institutions have agreed to adopt it. When medicinal marijuana became legal in Ohio in January, the Cleveland Clinic decided that it would not recommend it to its patients. “We’re just beginning to grasp the effects of cannabinoids in the body,” says Paul Terpeluk, a doctor of osteopathic medicine and medical director of the Cleveland Clinic’s Employee Health Services. States should not be in the business of regulating and promoting pharmaceuticals, in our opinion.”
Other doctors, on the other hand, prefer not to erect barriers to medical marijuana use. Peter Grinspoon, a primary care physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and a Harvard Medicinal School instructor, took the uncommon step of being certified to certify his patients as medical marijuana users.
“I grew up with this, so it’s difficult for me not to think of it as medicine,” Grinspoon says. His father, Harvard psychiatrist Lester Grinspoon, is known as the “grandfather of medical marijuana.” In the 1970s, he wrote a book about the history and cultural use of medical marijuana, and a marijuana strain named after him exists in Europe. His sibling, who was also battling leukemia, used marijuana.
“When you examine the track record of other pharmaceuticals a lot of older individuals take, especially for pain, sleep, and anxiety,” Grinspoon says, “it makes sense to try cannabis.” “Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen can harm your kidneys, put your heart at risk, and induce gastrointestinal bleeding.” Few individuals prefer to take opiates since they haven’t been shown to provide long-term comfort, they cause constipation, and they can be addicted. Sleep and anxiety medications might make you drowsy and impair your memory. Cannabis has the potential to be as effective as anything else.”
Even nursing homes are seeing a significant transformation toward acceptance. Residents at the Hebrew Home in Riverdale, New York, can use cannabis capsules or cannabis oil drops, and it has been reported to relieve pain, enhance appetite, and even reduce opioid use in one person. Residents acquire and administer cannabis themselves or with the assistance of a caregiver who is not a member of the home’s staff, ensuring that the program complies with federal regulations.
“The benefits are nothing short of astounding,” says Daniel Reingold, CEO of RiverSpring Health, which operates the Hebrew Home. “They should be more readily available to residents of long-term care facilities.” The nursing home is currently leading a group of nonprofit long-term care facilities from throughout the country who are planning to conduct massive research on the effects of medical marijuana on older persons this fall.
(Note: Medical marijuana purchased from a dispensary is not reimbursed by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Medicare, Medicaid, or private insurance, while FDA-approved prescription medications based on cannabis, such as Marinol, may be covered in some situations.)
The AARP Board of Directors established a policy in March that supports older individuals using marijuana for medical purposes in states where it has been allowed. The decision was made based on a growing amount of evidence that marijuana can assist treat specific medical ailments and symptoms. The policy also states that medical marijuana decisions should be made in consultation with a patient and a health care professional, and that clinical evidence of benefit and harm, the patient’s preferences and values, and any applicable laws should all be considered.
“AARP also supports further clinical investigation into medical usage of cannabis to assist reduce both the symptoms of disease and the adverse effects of disease treatment,” according to the policy. “AARP believes the DEA’s [Drug Enforcement Administration] designation of marijuana as a Schedule I restricted substance discourages medicinal usage and scientific study of cannabinoids,” according to the policy, which calls on federal officials to look into ways to allow more clinical research.