Medical Cannabis – Under Threat?

Medical Cannabis – Under Threat?

By Ed Coghlan.

Ellen and Stu Smith live in Scituate, Rhode Island. They are champions for the use of medical cannabis for chronic pain.

The two advocates are concerned—they see two threats on the horizon for people who use medical cannabis to address their chronic pain issues.

One is US Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Justice Department which they believe is trying to turn the clock back by cracking down on any use of marijuana.

The second threat is the growing acceptance of recreational marijuana which becomes legal in the nation’s biggest state next week—and will be legal in eight states and the District of Columbia.

Federal Government

“The Administration is not supportive for the use of medical cannabis, in fact Attorney General Sessions is threatening to shut people down who use it,” said Ellen Smith. She’s 67 years old, suffers from the connective tissue disorder Ehlers Danlos and has been using medical cannabis since it became legal in Rhode Island 11 years ago.

The Smiths believes that anyone suffering from chronic illness should be allowed to use it.

We asked about the need for more research on the efficacy of medical cannabis to treat pain, and they reminded us that it’s been studied for 25 years in Israel. Of course, there are no studies in the U.S. because the federal government continues to classify marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug—which prevents it from being researched in an FDA study.

“More research in the U.S. would be great,” said Stu Smith. “But it can’t be at the expense of immediate availability. People already depend on medical cannabis.”

Cannabis Is Not Just Marijuana

The Smiths never call it medical marijuana because of the image people have about it.

“I use a teaspoon of cannabis oil at night, to manage my pain,” Ellen Smith said. “I don’t light up a joint.”

They pointed out that oils, tincture, edibles and topicals are all part of medical cannabis—a distinction that is important for them and they believe differentiates it from recreational marijuana.

The Threat of Legal Marijuana

The Smiths and many others are very concerned that the growing marijuana industry which is rapidly going mainstream in the U.S. will hurt the development of the different strains of medical cannabis that can help the chronic patients among others.

The big money that is chasing recreational marijuana may negatively impact the smaller margin businesses that cater to the medical uses of cannabis.

The Smiths volunteer with the U.S. Pain Foundation and the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition to drive awareness of the efficacy of medical cannabis.

“As many chronic pain patients are seeing their opioid prescriptions being reduced or even eliminated, they need to have other options,” Mrs. Smith stressed. “Medical cannabis need to be accessible and affordable which should be a public health priority in 2018.”

Her advocacy will be put on hold for a couple of months while she recovers from her 24th surgery.

Said Stu Smith:

“The need to share the knowledge of how well medical marijuana addresses chronic pain is universal. We plan to continue our mission to educate and inspire.”

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Authored by: Ed Coghlan

There are 14 comments for this article
  1. shane at 8:46 am

    Non-Narcotic Natural Pain Killer Synthesized / science. Why not just give us pain patients the crepe jasmine pin wheel plant that grows in florida. It has a alkaloid that is more powerful than morphine and yet non addictive and no side effects what so ever. And it has done been proven years ago,yet the FDA will not approve it. Just look it up. Just beyond a shame what suffering and death our government, doctors and others have caused. Pure evil and inhumane……….

  2. Rita KIMBEL at 9:06 am

    Mark,
    I do hope I can get the relief that 80% of your patients were able. It’s going to be a great experiment to see if my pain is lessened by the MMJ alone, with no opiates, maybe un install the wire up my spine and rid myself of electronics. Praise the Lord

  3. Britt rung at 7:33 pm

    Pot has been used for millennia. If u have a problem with it don’t use.
    Legalization brings testedclean cannabis. No death from cannabis. And pain patients on opiates most use responsibly.
    We’ve had 100 yrs of PROHIBITION. News flash it doesn’t work. I actually like people that can see common and use common sense. Although in this last year common sense is fading fast.

  4. Ellen at 2:21 pm

    This is so ridiculous. Take safe opiates managed by pain doctors and push marijuana??
    I have seen horrible deaths from fungal balls that bled in a brain or lungs of someone who never expected to get immunosuppressive by cancer treatments Aspergillias can be in the marijuana and spores turn to fungal balls that grow once patient becomes immunocopromized. Even in patients who stopped after told risk I would never take it not to mention it messes with thinking and no one knows safe amount to drive etc
    It is malpractice to not offer proven treatments and but a random safe number everyone is different I as all chronic pain patients follow prescribing don’t loose meds I even lock them up in my home
    Every one trying take them away insurance companies pharmacies government it should be between doctor and patient and there are computer programs send. Scripts directly to pharmacy so it can not be lost sold but people with chronic pain are not selling them they / I loose and put up with hoops that are full contracts pee in cups now have go to pain clinic vs consult Those doctors are hero’s but not enough for all pain patients
    No chronic pain patients variety pain mds ( Washington state patients have been harmed by UW pain mds) or pain nurses, familes these patients, were on opioid task forces and many pain doctors are being bullied and scared into taking current so called guidelines as law They have families so I respect their position but it is much harder being in chronic pain then being medical person writing
    scripts. What about alcohol now hard liquor is in stores grocery stores Seattle looked at safe sterile needle places for heroin addicts and yet legimate safe meds that work functional analgesia is being taken away
    Chronic pain patients have had increase suicides Why would anyone want takenmeds that
    Make it unsafe drive, part reason many can not work and looks and judgement unless they really had pain We (chronic pain patients need medical advocates Just sending emails and comments is exhausting I would rather have a Rx of terminal in few weeks then live another 25-30 years in pain. Where is compassion??

  5. Ibin at 2:18 pm

    The “Smiths”, in this narrative HAVE found successful use of cannabis products. The Smiths are NOT the only people/patients in this country that have found a use for cannabanoid products to successfully relieve very pertinent issues among their, our health issues. Evidently, the use of opioid medication in an effective quantity, does NOT count either. Jeff, blessed, evidently with “good” health has NEVER had to call on other than “natural” body influence over ANY negative health issue. I STILL say that IF Jeff woke every morning….IF he was able to gain recouperative sleep would place a joint in any orafice and let someone “kick him” (where it hurts) to get his lungs going to gain……..pain management OR other positive health generation in HIS one and ONLY life. His hard ass approach against cannabanoid products, “good people don’t smoke marijuana”, is simply because the issue has NOT been faced…..by him. Same deal with ANY relief form of, lifetime, incurable, pain generation from disease, injury, OR botched surgery that occurrs…..everyday. I STILL do not advocate FOR any one pain management solution, management that “should” be effective enough, for one and all. It IS a ludicrous presumption. Everyone in this country do NOT have to accept the “professionals” opinion. MOST of the intractable pain patients HAVE observed, followed, remained within the “law”, depending on what state you live in and the current regulations of pain management and other negative health issues but, the forced compliance of “one shoe fits all” is simply ridiculous. WE, the patients AND our providers KNOW what works, what IS effective for our individual health issues and intractable pain IS an issue but, Jeff “knows better”. I STILL say that if Jeff found himself with intractable pain issues and the ONLY, the most effective pain management therapy “realized” for him was a cannabanoid product, he would place a “joint” in ANY orafice, have a friend or family member “kick him”, (where it hurts) to get his lungs functioning for immediate, effective, non harmful relief. Jeff does not realize this FACT but, the patients desperately attempting to manage daily, nightly, non stop pain generation beyond our own bodies ability to manage have realized that there ARE pain management therapies for everyone and “one shoe fits all” is NOT an effective contengiency for pain management. Of course, this is “my” opinion…..only.

  6. Steven Smith at 1:08 pm

    Maybe somebody could enlighten everyone with information that we don’t have but my pain doctor says in the US you can either use opiates or medical marijuana but not both. You get one warning and then they drop you . Seeing as how being stoned 24/7 it’s not an option most pain suffers are stuck with opiates. If marijuana is safe enough for recreational use why in the world are people suffering with severe pain denied it? Makes no sense whatsoever!

  7. CRPS survivor at 11:34 am

    I don’t know if cannabis would work for every person, but it gave me my life back.
    I’ve had CRPS since 2003, affecting both arms.
    A bit over 2 years ago I was taking approx 320mgs morphine daily, and still not able to do much of anything. I’d do my best to keep up with dishes and such, but for the most part, I was just trying not to move my arms more than absolutely necessary.
    I’m in an illegal state. But I was desperate and finally gave it a try. Within 3 days I wasn’t needing my breakthrough meds as much. Knock off 60-120 mgs right there. In a couple of months I was asking my (3-6 min appointment and hadn’t done labs in the last 8 years) Pain dr to lower my extended dosage…Then lower my breakthrough meds…then lower again…
    Now I’m at 60mgs a day & hoping to get it down farther, after it warms up.
    1/4 teaspoon of “flower” in a vaporizer at night, along with powdered CBD to raise that level. I sleep, I can move, I have a life.
    Now we’ll be moving in a few months, to another illegal state, and I’ll have to find another doctor. My dream is to find one that will keep working with me. Someone supportive that won’t kick me out for having this in my system. And maybe I can get my OTHER meds down even lower.
    I hope it isn’t an impossible dream.

  8. Mark Ibsen MD at 11:20 am

    Ann:
    People who use cannabis CAN drive, as can folks on oxycodone or
    Gabapentin
    Rita:
    80% of my opiate patients were able to get off them with cannabis.

    To all:
    I have roofers that Medicate and
    Put of roof on
    And they only get 14 feet high. 😽

  9. Rocky46 at 8:23 am

    I have suffered from severe pain since CRPS decided to become a part of me now going on 26 years. I tried CBD with no success. I am all for it being available to pain patients but…please stop pushing medical cannabis as the next best thing to replace opioids. It like pain medication does not help everyone and to me presents a problem. I am not the only one. It is simply one more treatment modality, nothing more.

    Living in CA and yes I voted for both medicinal and recreational marijuana. Do I regret it,byes, especially when it comes to recreational use. I see ads every day for restaurants, both drive thru and sit down that will be offering edibles on the menu. This is wrong! I do not believe there are enough guidelines in place for this to happen. I see ads everyday where cannabis is becoming a multi BILLION dollar business. Not only that but both local and state groups want in for a piece of this action. That alone puts it in the same arena as big Pharma and will do more harm than good!

  10. Rita KIMBEL at 7:55 am

    I’m very torn on the MMJ being introduced in PA this year. My family doctor has been my main caregiver for 15 years until he could no longer, legally?, treat my pain, sent me back to pain doctor that implanted my neuro-stimulator 10 years ago. To my surprise I was drug tested on my first visit and when he told me I tested positive for marijuana and he assumed I was using it to control my pain I thought he would refuse treating as my pain doctor. In stead he told me that he advocates for medical marijuana and I was protected by safe harbor, his plan was to get me off oxycontin and on with MMJ. OK… Wow. Yes I started using marijuana after my prescription for oxycontin was refused at the pharmacy 2 months prior, and have used in the past 14 years since the spinalcord injury left me with intractable pain. He got me through the last 8 months by putting me back on an opiate,under the CDC recommend, and after jumping through hoops,prior authorizations, I’m still in pain. He had me apply for MM licence and we are waiting for the start up of dispensaries here in our state. I have no idea if or how it will work without the opiate. Now at the other end of the spectrum is my Family doctor, I used to see him every 3 months, haven’t seen him since March, he doesn’t think MM will work for me and he knows me better than I know my own self. He had treated me since the injury and we did the step-fail first and every other type of pain management including the neuro-stimulator, we ended at 80 mg. Oxycontin with no increase of milligrams in about 6 years. I was functional and involved with family and friends and life off the couch. Everything has changed this year, if I stay with my current Pain doctor, I will be off opiates in 2018, unless the MMJ doesn’t work. I would like to go back to that one pill. This is all ridiculous

  11. Bob Schubring at 7:26 am

    Meanwhile the case of Washington v Sessions is proceeding, in the US District Court in New York City. 5 plaintiffs allege multiple violations of constitutional rights by the DEA, because the DEA refuses to re-schedule cannabis off of Schedule I and allow some uses. AG Sessions is being sued in his official capacity, because DEA is a unit of the Justice Department and he supervises it.

    Plaintiffs allege that the US is lying about it’s claims that cannabis is too dangerous to study.

    Their basis for alleging that the Government is lying, is that the US took out a patent on using cannabis as an anti-oxidant for preserving foods and pharmaceutical drugs, and wants the right to collect a cash royalty on anyone worldwide, who puts cannabinoids into a Pharma drug or food item to protect the item from spoilage.

    According to Plaintiffs, the US cannot know that cannabis is useful for preventing spoilage of a food or Pharma drug, without having done research. Therefore the US has to be lying about the claim, that cannabis is too dangerous to research.

    Mr Sessions is attempting to get the judge to dismiss the suit, so he does not have to explain why the Government has been lying for decades, about what it knows about cannabis. If that fails, the lawsuit will enter Discovery. The judge will issue subpoenas and people will have to begin explaining each conflicting statement they made on behalf of the Government, until there’s enough evidence accumulated to make sense of what happened. That could prove very interesting.

  12. Laura at 6:49 am

    I had to chuckle: “I take a teaspoon…I don’t light up a joint.”

    Americans have a very narrow concept of what medicine should look like. The pharmaceutical industry has trained them well. “Medicine” should be a pill, or a spray, or something else that comes in a package, can, or bottle. Certainly not some kind of raw plant material you can smoke or vaporize!

    For my particular Ehlers Danlos related pain, I often light up a joint, and here’s why:

    1. It takes an hour or two for the oil to kick in, and inhaled cannabis smoke or vapor is immediate-acting. So if I’m in acute pain, I want immediate relief.

    2. I enjoy it. One of the huge problems of being in pain 24/7/365 for years and years is the sheer grind of it. Depression can easily set in. Nothing feels good. Food stops tasting good…or in my case, since I have TMD (Tempero-Mandibular Disease, a new term for TMJ) and often can’t chew, sucking down liquids and soft foods gets tiresome. My medical cannabis card lets me choose strains of cannabis that do different things: one variety cheers me up and makes me hungry, while another might lull me gently to sleep. The ritual of rolling a joint is soothing and takes my mind off the pain in my hands, while the actual movements involved in rolling get those hands moving in ways that are therapeutic. I use organic hemp rolling papers–no nasty chemicals–and by the way, cannabis smoke causes neither cancer nor lung disease.

    Fortunately there are choices for people who don’t like to or don’t want to smoke. And most medical patients are going to need to use several forms of cannabis medicine: oral preparations like lozenges and oils, which take a couple of hours to start working but then last for 8-10 hours, and short, fast-acting forms like vapor (or smoke) for immediate relief. The Israelis have even developed a medicalized “inhaler” device that looks just like an asthma inhaler and delivers a metered dose of vaporized cannabis, for those who need to dose in a public place!

    We need to get past the stoner stigma so we can tap into the vast therapeutic possibilities of botanical medicine. It’s not all about popping pills for pain relief. If smoking a joint relaxes me, relieves my pain, and opens up my world to enjoyment of everyday things like eating and going for a walk with my dog, who the hell is Jeff Sessions to arbitrarily and with his only “cause” a lie, to tell me I must return to a joyless world of pain?

  13. Margaret Adamson at 6:44 am

    I also suffers with chronic pain. I take Kratom for my pain. I’m also worried about the feds making this wonderful herb illegal. I don’t want opiods but kratom acts on the opiods receptors and calms my pain to a manageable level. Also lifts my mood. I believe that this administration is lumping everyone together. I don’t take this to get high, I use Kratom to be able to function. I am very worried about the the stigma and treatment of people with chronic pain.

  14. Ann Freud at 3:10 am

    In the UK last Year a large amount of sound evidence on the proven efficacy of medical cannabis was handed to the Government. They still refused to legalise it for indications beyond MS (the only condition it can be prescribed for). I suspect the true reason was cost as it is £250 per month. I do know Mick Serpell at Glasgow Pain Service and Medical School did a lot of research recently that can be looked up and he would know of other research proving efficacy also. For me personally I have bought the oil privately at £250 and it does not work for me whereas the entire plant (hash) does. My doctors actively encourage me to break the law to obtain it. Of course one cannot use it in the daytime because you cannot drive or function safely if you are stoned. I wish you success. Happy New Year and one of less pain to you all.

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