When Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey introduced the Marijuana Justice Act to Congress this week, he admitted that, while writing the bill, he wasn’t thinking about how legalized pot could be a tool in combating the current opioid crisis in the United States. But now that the legislation has been introduced, it’s part of an ongoing conversation about how cannabis may be used for medicinal purposes. Cannabis is becoming more and more of a contender in the world of healthcare, with more states making it legal for medical use. Marijuana is legal in 29 states for various qualifying conditions.
Medical marijuana can be used to treat chronic pain, depression, epilepsy, muscle stiffness, nausea, lack of appetite and many other conditions. Each state has different laws for how cannabis can be used. For example, only CBD oil (hemp oil) is allowed in Texas and Tennessee. Meanwhile, in Illinois, cannabis is allowed to cover more than 40 different conditions, including seizures, rheumatoid arthritis, PTSD, MS, cancer, Tourette’s syndrome and Alzheimer’s.
Medicare does not cover medical marijuana at this time. Clinical studies on cannabis are difficult to undertake since the DEA has it listed as a Schedule I drug, along with the most dangerous illegal drugs. The FDA also still calls cannabis illegal. However there are bills in place to make it legal for researchers to study the effects of cannabis and to hone its medical uses.
Legalization Could Curb Opioid Abuse
A huge possible benefit of making marijuana legal is reducing the costs of opioid use and money spent on opioids. Using cannabis in cases where opioids have been prescribed in the past could also help to put a stop to the epidemic of prescription opioid abuse and addiction, leading to over 21,000 deaths in 2014 alone. Marijuana can treat pain and other ailments with fewer side effects, sometimes more effectively than opioids, and can be used to wean people off of opioids.
Legalizing Marijuana Could Help Medicare
Based on a study conducted by healthaffairs.org, researchers estimated that legalizing medical cannabis could save the government about $470 million on Medicare costs (almost 50% of the program’s total cost). And if you add Medicaid into the figures, the savings are much more. On a state level, it’s estimated that legalizing medical marijuana could save each state almost $20 million per year.
Using Cannabis Medically
There is some trial and error involved in finding the right strain and dosage to take for using cannabis in a medicinal fashion. With oral marijuana, it can be easier to manage the dose instead of smoking, as well as healthier for your lungs. Marijuana can also be brewed into tea, vaporized, sprayed under the tongue, rubbed on the skin, or cooked in food.
Especially in patients who suffer chronic pain with conditions that are not improving over time, cannabis as medicine can be very beneficial. This list of conditions lets you know which illnesses would qualify you for a medical marijuana card by your state. The laws continue to change in each state, so check back with your state’s health department for updates, and always consult a doctor.
For more information on your state’s restrictions, contact your state’s department of health. Always check with your doctor before using any medical treatments, as different drugs can interact with one another in harmful ways. Marijuana can interact adversely with sedatives, anxiety drugs, antidepressants, blood thinners, and blood sugar and blood pressure medications.