Medical Marijuana Patients Need Access and Options


There’s a lot of debate about the best way for patients in Colorado to acquire the medicinal benefits of cannabis.

Amendment 20 gave medical marijuana patients the right to grow their own medicine at home, and some people think that’s what everyone should do: just grow their own. Well, that’s a fine idea in theory, but isn’t very practical. Growing marijuana isn’t easy for everyone, and growing high-quality marijuana takes skill. People who travel for their job will have difficulty taking consistent care of their garden. And a family of four living in a two-bedroom apartment will likely not have the space or resources to set up a quality indoor grow. For various reasons, many patients simply do not have the wherewithal to grow their own medicine.

Caregivers are an option for patients who choose to have someone grow marijuana for them. There are some very talented and dedicated caregivers in Colorado providing numerous patients with badly needed medicine, but still, this option doesn’t work for all patients. How does someone find a quality caregiver? Without a high level of expertise, how does a patient evaluate whether or not a particular caregiver is right for them? What does a patient do if their caregiver has a crop failure?  And many patients want the assurance of safety and testing that many caregivers simply do not have access to.

Patients can go to the regulated medical marijuana market. This option works better for patients in more urban areas where Centers are abundant and the selection of products is varied. For patients in areas of the state that have implemented a ban or moratorium, the closest Center may be hundreds of miles away. Although the regulations are meant to protect patients and public safety, the costs of compliance plus the heavy burden of overhead, drive the prices out of reach for many. Remember, medical marijuana is not covered by insurance, so patients pay 100% out of pocket.

Some patients choose to go to the regulated retail/recreational market. With a limited list of conditions, many patients don’t qualify for a medical marijuana license. They may not want to go through the hassle or expense of getting a Red Card. Considering the political climate and continued prohibition of marijuana by the federal government, many simply don’t want to be on a list that has the potential to make them a target by law enforcement. Although prices may be higher, they aren’t growing at home and don’t have access to a friend or caregiver, so the best option for them is the retail market. This model is particularly attractive to tourists and those who want to try marijuana and see how it affects their condition before committing to the process required by the medical system.

And finally, while we don’t much care for Big Pharma, and have serious issues with many of their products, we recognize that there are some patients who could benefit from cannabis, and doctors who are in a position to recommend it, who will never accept it unless it comes from the FDA and Pharma. For those people, cannabis dispensed at Walgreen’s or Rite Aide will be the only option they will consider. And with the interest in research on cancer and other ailments, who are we to tell these patients that they shouldn’t have cannabis too?

At Cannabis Patients Alliance, we want it all! We want patients to have safe access to the medicinal benefits of cannabis in whatever way works best for them: home growing, caregivers, medical marijuana centers, retail marijuana shops, and even pharmaceuticals. We just don’t want any of those to be the only option available to patients. And we certainly don’t want patients to go back to meeting drug dealers in dark alleys just to get the medicine they desperately need.

Each way has its benefits and drawbacks. Each option works for different patients in different circumstances. It’s up to each patient to choose which one works best for them.

As we see it, our job is to keep as many options open to patients as possible, so that anyone who needs cannabis can easily find safe access to it.

Categories: Advocacy, Patients, Policy & Politics

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