Friday, October 13, 2017

The Medical Cannabis Patients’ Voices Must Be Represented

This article first ran in 2016; Part II coming this Winter 2017/2018!
A review of recent headlines in a number of states with medical cannabis highlights the huge financial profits. And the same around the cannabis legalization discussion within some of the biggest national cannabis advocacy groups.  What’s missing? The voice of the medical cannabis patients and those in the medical cannabis community.
The current debate and coverage focuses on legalization and regulation combining the interests of everyone from big pharma to big AG to recreational users to growers to government. Without the interests of medical cannabis patient community represented in this debate, we all run the great risk of establishing a future framework that is setup to take away patient cultivation rights, fails to protect the medical patient, and will require further modification.
The pharmaceutical industry both has much to gain and much to lose from legalization of the cannabis plant in its various natural forms.What that industry does not want is to be competing with a natural plant that anyone can grow in his backyard, which actually works better than very expensive pharmaceuticals without side effects.
The absence of the medical cannabis patients voice has been furthered silenced by groups who have strayed from their original mission. As the influence of financial donations from companies the vast majority of medical cannabis patients want nothing to do with, in May of this year, Bayer AG, the giant German chemical and pharmaceutical company, made a bid to buy Monsanto. Both companies are said to be working on a synthetic cannabis-based extract. Billionaires George Soros and the late Peter Lewis have bankrolled much of the cannabis legalization movement since 2012, providing Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) the bulk of their funding. Look what happened in Washington state on July 1st and patients losing safe access to medical cannabis- that new approach to their program was funded by George Soros and his influence on DPA. George Soros is one of the biggest and most important shareholders of Monsanto Agrochemical Company and Halliburton. Peter Lewis got his source of great wealth from Progressive Insurance.
Natural health writer Mike Adams warns:

“[W]ith the cannabis industry predicted to generate over $13 billion by 2020, becoming one of the largest agricultural markets in the nation, there should be little doubt that companies like Monsanto are simply waiting for Uncle Sam to remove the herb from its current Schedule I classification before getting into the business.

. . . [O]ther major American commodities, like corn and soybeans, are on average between 88 and 91 percent genetically modified. Therefore, once the cannabis industry goes national, and that is most certainly primed to happen, there will be no stopping the inevitability of cannabis becoming a prostituted product of mad science and shady corporate monopoly tactics.”
The debate about cannabis legalization is complex and encompasses many different aspects from dispensary/producer models, to the rights of medical cannabis patients, from America's right to freedom of choice, to large-scale big pharma and big AG commercialization into cannabis. When the legalization conversation does include medical cannabis issues, much of the focus is on profits from the medical cannabis dispensaries.

Just as Newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst's empire of newspapers used the "yellow journalism" pioneered by Hearst to demonize the cannabis plant and spread a public perception that there were connections between cannabis and violent crime. Duke Rodriguez is the modern day Hearst to the medical cannabis program of New Mexico spreading public perception of our medical cannabis program being broken, influencing local media -telling journalist what to write and that his legalization ideas are the only way to solve the problem…all with the backing of Drug Policy Alliance (whose policies have been harmful to medical cannabis patients in other states). During job interviews in the Fall of 2015, Ultra Health was asking interviewees how they felt about the company trying to get Patient Personal Production Licenses removed from the program because it is viewed by Ultra Health as a unfair advantage patients have.

In New Mexico, there are more headlines of the medical cannabis producers profits than of the law breaking administrative delays by the state of New Mexico Department of Health Medical Cannabis Office. This violation of the law in the Lynn & Erin Compassionate Use Act, 2007 (LECUA), requires the state Department of Health to process and issue a medical cannabis patient id card in 30 days, while patients are waiting 60 days or more and this continues to disrupt safe access to medicine. Fundamental to this discussion are the interests of the more than 25,000 New Mexicans who use medical cannabis and know how best to monitor medical cannabis to safely and effectively treat themselves. In the United States, as of March 2016, there were over 1,246,170 million legal medical cannabis patients. Thats an average of 9.4 patients per 1,000 state residents in New Mexico. Compared to other medical cannabis programs: Arizona 13.1 per 1000, California 19.4 per 1000, Colorado 19.8 per 1000, Oregon 19.2 per 1000 and Washington 19.2 per 1000 state residents according to .
To understand medical cannabis, it helps to understand the path to choosing it. Medical cannabis can be a last line of treatment for those who have unsuccessfully tried pharmaceuticals. When pharmaceuticals are successful, the side-effects of treatments -- for 21 health conditions classified by Department Of Health in New Mexico eligible for medical cannabis -- can be especially intense and unbearable causing patients to either seek other options, or incorporate cannabis into their regimen to ease these symptoms.
For example, a person living with multiple sclerosis (MS) may change treatments three or more times because the side-effects are excruciating, including recurring hot flashes, tissue degradation, digestive problems or hair loss. On the other hand, patients may avoid pharmaceutical treatments altogether, opting for a more "natural" option -- as is their choice.
The medical industry works hard to ensure treatments are safe and effective, but sometimes the results are not optimal and another option is examined and prescribed. Throughout this process, physicians need to be able to look after patients' best interests without fear of recommending medical cannabis and the lack of understanding by doctors of cannabis as a medicine must become non-existent. You, the patient, will always be your best advocate for your health and the medical profession all to often forgets we; as medical cannabis patients we hired them to work for us and our health.
We need to define a model for cannabis legalization, that keeps medical cannabis and puts patients first as well, and allows their physicians to provide the same level of care with medical cannabis as they do with other medications.
Prohibition of cannabis in the United States has largely denied the medical community the chance to study the effects this plant has on the human body so we have quite a bit of catch up to do. Patients need more trained nurses and health professionals with the ability to guide patients in the right direction, to support them on their journey to wellness with medical cannabis.
Understanding where your medication comes from and what exactly is in it is critical. While understandable that the current legal landscape discourages dispensaries from disclosing their sources, this is one thing that must change in order for us to progress toward medical standardization. If we are to treat medical cannabis as a true medicine, then we must adhere to the golden rule in medicine, “first, do no harm” or “primum non nocere”.
Patients are critical to the success of future legalization and regulation of cannabis in the United States, and specifically medical cannabis. The needs of 1,246,170 million medical cannabis patients who depend on medical cannabis as their primary medicine are the fundamental criteria that will guide and help shape a positive trajectory for legalization. This should be the real true focus, not big pharma and big AG throwing money at advocacy groups to influence policy to favor profits over the medical cannabis patient community.
Lastly, it’s important for all people within OUR medical cannabis community to know THEY are the power; the government, legislators & policy makers are lead to us and WE have the power to change the laws and government - people in it, policy being written, and overturning rules & regulations that disrupt safe access to our medicine. Not one state’s medical cannabis law is perfect, they are working pieces of democracy and this is where WE can establish patient lead policy in New Mexico and throughout the United States. We have the science, the research, the knowledge - the information the policy makers don’t have and we need to get it in front of legislators.
These patients' needs and experiences regarding medical cannabis must be represented and fully considered by those we vote and elect into office as they make decisions on regulations for a legal cannabis marketplace for both adult use cannabis and medical cannabis.