The Medical Use of Marihuana as a Health Care Issue
© 2011 Chocolate Cherri
December 3, marks the completion of three years of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act. For me, those three years have been adventurous. Because most here don’t know me, I won’t get into it, for those who do, what a ride.
I see the road ahead as being very rocky. With all fights, there will attempts to divide and separate. The cannabis road is no different. Separation is not necessarily a bad thing. When speaking about cannabis, there are a number of things that can be discussed. Put in botany terms, cannabis issues are like rhizomes. From its base, cannabis has industrial, recreational and health care roots. If one were to ride along one of those roots, they would find that the roads sometimes intersect. Although the base is common, the final destinations are what separate the issues.
As a Social Justice issue cannabis sends out an abundance of other rhizomes that relate to health care. Law enforcement, prison reform, public safety, disability rights, employment, and the treatment of diseases and chronic conditions are issues with roots in cannabis as a health care option. My focus is on cannabis and its medical benefits; and I will say that the first two roots that I labeled should not be issues in health care. Unfortunately, law enforcement, prison sentencing is what is found in most media reports.
Looking at health care, I note the Preamble of the United Nations Charter which states a commitment, ”to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small”. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarked that governments must take the lead in providing health care to its people, and that the private sector also has a role to play. These words come from a discussion of the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goal on Gender Equality and Empowerment.
The U.N.’s Millennium Development Goal on Gender Equality and Empowerment is an initiative developed to end worldwide poverty. The process started in the year 2000, with the date of fulfillment being 2015. The hope was that the United States would be the forerunner in working to achieve the goals set. Let’s be honest, since 2000, the U. S. government has done little to keep its citizens out of poverty. Some might even say that the government has helped to push families into an uncomfortable level of poorness.
Since being in office, President Obama has appointed two women to the federal Supreme Court, pushed for pay equality between males and females, and last year he signed a health care bill into law. In the past few weeks, the president has spoke about HIV/AIDS and its eradication. All of these issues were done to satisfy the U. N. initiative. Looking at health care, what has he missed?
The United States of America is thought to be the riches and most powerful country in the world. The United States of America is also the ONLY developed country that does not provide health care to its citizens. The health care plan that is going though enrollment steps now will require all American to have health care by 2015. The required coverage is not gifted, but is to be paid for by the enrollee. Those who do not make their purchase by a designated date will be fined. Maybe it’s my odd thinking, but if health insurance was affordable to everyone, would not everyone already have it?
Since our citizenry will be force to buy insurance, they might as will use it. Wow, a country full of people who know with certainty that they have cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn's disease, Alzheimer's disease, nail patella; and/or they suffer from cachexia , severe and chronic pain, nausea, the characteristic of epilepsy, or the persistent muscle spasms characteristic of multiple sclerosis. Will this coverage provide treatment for these conditions? Additional, just because a person has (will have) health insurance, does not mean that they will have prescription coverage. Even now, there are those who know that they have these ailments, but cannot afford the medications to treat them. The sickest of these people tend to be the poor, undeserved members of our community. This is where I see the cannabis root entering into health care.
The person with a severe, chronic disease or condition is likely the one receiving some form of disability payment. The web site for High Times magazine list marihuana prices across the country (High Times Magazine, 2011). The prices can range from $200 to $700 per ounce of plant material. The average disability check may be as high as $927 per month (Ohlemacher & Press, 2011). After household bills are paid, there is little, if any money left. Michigan’s medical marihuana law is written in a way so that health insurance companies do not have to provide coverage for this medicine (333.26427 © (1) Michigan Medical Marihuana Act). In effect, marihuana is unaffordable to those whom the law is actually trying to service.
The motivation behind the medical use of cannabis is found in studies that showed that marihuana does have medicinal qualities (NORML Foundation, 2010). While the U.S. government will allow studies that will show negative aspects of the plant, studies conducted in other countries have showed positive effects (Russo, 2001). The use of the cannabis as medicine is important because thousands of Americans have used pharmaceuticals that later were found to be ineffective, and/or produced diseases and side-effects that were more disturbing than the original purpose of the prescribed drug (Grinspoon, 1993).
With little to no out of pocket cost, it is possible for a person to grow enough cannabis to treat their condition. The fancy equipment seen in ads (Metro Times) is not necessary. There is a book titled, Grow for Less (SeeMoreBuds, 2007), which explains how to yield a decent supply of medication for less than $100. With many in this country being without health care and/or the means to purchase medication, a medical plant, that patients can grow themselves, is a low cost alternative.
Over the past three years, I have met a number of Michigan’s medical marihuana patients. The majority of Michigan’s patients are cautious and responsible people who would not possess or use marihuana in a school bus, or on the grounds of K – 12 schools. These patients do not to smoke marihuana while on public transportation, or in any public place. Mindful of public safety issues, the responsible patients will not operate or be in physical control of any motor vehicle, aircraft, or motorboat while under the influence of marihuana. This describes the majority, but what about the irresponsible, minority patients?
To my regret, this is where rhizomes of law enforcement and prison sentencing start their roots. Many people are not aware of the human cost of marihuana prohibition. Did you know that the majority of people arrested in this country are arrested for drug related charges, and that most of those arrests involves marihuana? These marihuana charges tend to be for simple possession. Simple possession means having less than one ounce of plant material - likely a joint or two (DrugPolicyAlliance.org, 2011). Even if you are not in favor of the use of marihuana, can you support the unjust treatment that patients can be subjected to? Can you really support a person being sentenced for up to ten years for being in possession of two marihuana cigarettes (John Sinclair, 2008)?
Speaking of unjust treatment, there is also the financial cost. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter presented a speech to Congress concerning the issue of drug use. During that speech, Carter stated “penalties against the use of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of a drug itself (Carter, 1977). Since 1985 and the Reagan presidency, a person, without any conviction, who is arrested with even one joint, regardless of their reason for use, can lose their house, vehicles, and savings to forfeiture! (Browne, 2004). Thanks to a law signed by President Clinton, a marijuana conviction can mean a loss and/or denial of all government money for schooling! (Leinwand, 2006). Even if the drug charges are later dismissed, the person will still have a criminal record. Having a record can result in collateral damage. Lost or lack of employment, housing, and deportation are possible carry-overs (Sentencing Project, 2011).
When I speak of the medical use of marihuana:
• I do not make a comparison with alcohol, I do not make a comparison with tobacco, nor do I make a comparison with prescription medications.
• When I speak of the medical use of marihuana, I speak of people in bad health, and possibly lower incomes. I speak of those people who are responsible in attending to their health care the best they can. I speak of those people who are mindful of their surroundings and any public safety issues that cannabis use can bring forth.
• When I speak of health care, the people who the United States of America agreed to help when it signed the Charter of the United Nations.
The medical use of marihuana is a health care issue. Health care is a fundamental human right. Exercising that human right without fear of arrest or loss of property is indicative of the dignity and worth of the human person.
John Sinclair. (2008, April 10). Retrieved July 18, 2011, from Luminist.org: http://www.luminist....hn_sinclair.htm
Michigan Medical Marihuana Act. (2008, December 4). Retrieved February 16, 2011, from Michigan.gov: http://www.legislatu...5ma01453a0qd245))/documents/mcl/pdf/mcl-Initiated-Law-1-of-2008.pdf
333.26427 © (1) Michigan Medical Marihuana Act. (n.d.). Retrieved August 19, 2011, from Michigan Medical Marihuana Act: http://www.legislatu...w-1-of-2008.pdf
Allen St. Pierre, N. E. (2011, August 22). It’s Official: Obama Administration’s Public Housing Policy Discriminates Against Medical Marijuana Patients. Retrieved August 22, 2011, from Hawaii News Daily.com: http://cannabis.hawa...ana-patients-2/
Browne, H. (2004, June 22). Reagan Legacy. Retrieved July 18, 2011, from Harry Browne.org: http://harrybrowne.o...n%27sLegacy.htm
Carter, P. J. (Performer). (1977, August 2). Drug Abuse Message to Congress. Washington DC.
Charter of the United Nations. (n.d.). Retrieved August 21, 2011, from un.org: http://www.un.org/en.../preamble.shtml
DrugPolicyAlliance.org . (2011, June 15). First Quarter 2011 NYC Marijuana Arrest Numbers Released: Marijuana Possession Arrests Up 20 Percent from Same Period in 2010. Retrieved July 18, 2011, from DrugPolicyAlliance.org: http://www.drugpolic...ssion-arrests-2
Grinspoon, L. M. (1993). Marihuana: The Forbidden Medicine. Binghamton, N.Y.: Vail-Ballou Press.
High Times Magazine. (2011, August 4). Retrieved August 20, 2011, from High Times .com: http://hightimes.com...e/ht_admin/7227
Joy, J. E. (1999). Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
Leinwand, D. (2006, April 4). Drug convictions costing students their financial aid. Retrieved July 18, 2011, from USA Today.com: http://www.usatoday....-students_x.htm
Ohlemacher, S., & Press, A. (2011, August 21). Social Security disability on verge of insolvency. Retrieved August 21, 2011, from Yahoo news.com: http://news.yahoo.co...-090119318.html
Ratsch, C. (1998). Marijuana Medicine. Switzerland: AT Verlag Aarau.
Russo, E. M. (2001). Cannabis Therapeutics in HIV/AIDS. New York: Haworth Integrative Healing Press.
SeeMoreBuds. (2007). Buds for Less: Grow 8 oz. of bud for less than $100. Oakland, CA: Quick American.
Sentencing Project. (2011, June 11). Collateral Consequences. Retrieved July 18, 2011, from SentencingProject.org: http://www.sentencin...page.cfm?id=143
©Chocolate Cherri (2011)