By Shaina Smith
People living with chronic illness and pain should have access to timely and appropriate treatments. For U.S. Pain Foundation, this includes medical marijuana. For those unaware, medical marijuana is already legal in 25 other states and the District of Columbia.
With the recent passing of states approving medical marijuana programs, we found it fitting to expand on election results and the organization’s support for patients to receive treatment options—alternative modalities which may have had negative responses to their treatment decisions.
While millions of Americans patiently waited to learn of the political results Tuesday night, people with chronic pain conditions were eager to learn if their state would legally afford them the chance to try medicine which has been used to treat various invisible illnesses. Many of those pain warriors rejoiced after learning that Florida, North Dakota and Arkansas approved that a program be established within their state. Montana also succeeded in expanding its medical marijuana program by including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a qualifying condition, along with removing the provider’s limit to taking on patients.
“These states have opened up the door for patients to try an alternative, safe treatment option to cope with their medical condition,” stated Ellen Lenox Smith, Co-Director of Medical Marijuana Advocacy for U.S. Pain Foundation. “Although this is a progressive step in the right direction to ensure people with chronic pain can access this alternative therapy option, there is much work to be done.”
Lenox Smith, who was instrumental in implementing a medical marijuana program within of her state of Rhode Island, has seen first-hand the work that is needed for a state to implement such a system for the chronic pain population. “The real work now begins for Florida, North Dakota and Arkansas, and we encourage patients to continue being engaged in the implementation process,” Lenox Smith noted. “An ideal law for those living with an invisible illness would include language which allows for equal opportunity for residents concerning qualifying conditions, affordable prices and a variety of medical marijuana strains to help accommodate the various needs of patients.”
U.S. Pain recognizes that medical marijuana’s most well-known benefits include pain relief. It has also been shown to alleviate symptoms of a huge variety of serious medical conditions including cancer, AIDS and glaucoma, and is often an effective alternative to synthetic painkillers. For people with serious illness and uncontrollable pain, medical marijuana is the only medicine that relieves their pain and suffering, of treats symptoms of their medical condition without debilitating side effects.
In the coming legislative session, U.S. Pain plans to continue mobilizing its Pain Ambassadors, Advocates and Volunteers to get involved in advocating in those states where medical marijuana programs have yet to be established. The organization understands that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to recognize or approve the marijuana plant as medicine. However, scientific study of the chemicals found in marijuana, called cannabinoids, has led to two FDA-approved medications that contain cannabinoid chemicals in pill form.
As the organization continues supporting a balanced pain management approach toward treating and managing chronic pain conditions, it sees medical marijuana as one alternative therapy option to replace or reduce the use of opioids in chronic pain treatment.
Priority advocacy issues for U.S. Pain Foundation will once again include medical marijuana, with efforts ranging from encouraging advocates to reach out to their elected officials to share their pain journey and reasoning behind their support for medical marijuana and ensuring proposed legislation does not lose the integrity of the existing medical marijuana programs.
Shaina Smith is Director of State Advocacy & Alliance Development for U.S. Pain Foundation. Diagnosed with various pain conditions, including Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Hypermobility Type, Shaina utilizes her Journalism background to mobilize pain patient advocates and engage volunteers to participate in awareness programs.