Cannabis legalization in North America has already moved into its second phase. Originally, cannabis was only made legal for medicinal use, as court challenges forced governments to end (full) Prohibition.
However, as cannabis enlightenment slowly spreads across North America (and around the world), cannabis is now being fully legalized for recreational use as well. First in a few U.S. states and now nationally in Canada, cannabis has been fully legalized. Prohibition has ended…or has it?
Sadly, the national legalization of cannabis in Canada for recreational use has actually impaired access to medicinal cannabis for the patients who depend upon this medicine. The federal government is already facing a legal challenge as Canada moves into Phase 2 of legalization because THC packaging limits don’t allow medicinal users with heavy needs to derive enough medication.
In the United States, the situation is equally absurd, but more complex, as is generally the case with its cannabis regulations. Here medicinal patients face different “access” issues.
To start with, even in states that authorize medicinal use, some states have very restrictive rules as to which medical conditions are approved for cannabis prescriptions. Then there are states (like New York) that have strict limitations on the types of cannabis products that are legal for medicinal use.
Both of these limitations are having a serious, negative impact on the 100’s of thousands of Americans (primarily military veterans) currently suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as either a primary or secondary diagnosis. In 2011 alone, over 476,000 military veterans were treated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for PTSD.
Some of these sufferers live in states where cannabis remains totally illegal. Some reside in states like New York that allow cannabis to be prescribed for PTSD, but only in the form of tinctures, capsules, and vape cartridges – no dried flower products.
Because of this, many PTSD sufferers in New York are turning toward the black market for their medicinal needs, for two reasons.
The first is price. The cannabis tinctures and concentrates that are legal in New York are heavily processed cannabis products. That processing translates into a much higher cost for medicine than obtaining equivalent medication in the form of dried flower.
Second, all of these refined cannabis products are cannabinoid extracts, THC and/or CBD. However, many physicians insist that patients benefit more from dried flower because it provides the full spectrum of cannabinoids from the cannabis plant (“whole plant” medicine).
There are roughly 100 known cannabinoids in cannabis, along with terpenes and flavonoids. Together, these compounds interact in what is described as “the entourage effect”. In other words, medicinal benefit is maximized through consuming all these cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids together – not only THC/CBD in isolation.
This explains the pathological hatred of Big Pharma towards cannabis. Drug companies can’t synthesize this amazingly complex and beneficial plant, only individual cannabinoids. This means that these multinational corporations can’t patent cannabis medications (in order to monopolize them) – and then gouge patients with astronomical drug prices.
New Jersey psychiatrist Dr. Michael Gentile is one of the physicians who strongly subscribes to the Entourage Effect and who prescribes cannabis for his PTSD patients. His medical opinion is spelled out in a Leafly article on cannabis and PTSD.
In New York, however, the same PTSD sufferers are required to buy from the black market if they want to use “the whole plant” as treatment for their condition.
However, even in New Jersey where dried flower is available for medicinal use, many patients are being steered away from cannabis. This is because the American Psychological Association (ironically) is phobic about smoking cannabis. It directs psychologists to not prescribe cannabis for any mental condition for which cannabis is a suitable treatment.
This is seriously misguided policy.
Smoking tobacco kills over 400,000 Americans per year, from lung cancer and a host of other cardio-respiratory diseases. Smoking cannabis is entirely different.
Nicotine is one of the deadliest poisons known to humanity. It’s one of 69 known carcinogens in cigarettes.
Cannabis is non-toxic. No connection has been established between (moderate) cannabis smoking and cancer, or any serious respiratory disease.
Smoking cannabis obviously does lead to respiratory irritation. However, for PTSD sufferers like “Lindy” that irritation is inconsequential in comparison to the medicinal benefit she derives from smoking her medicine.
Cannabis is the only medication that helps calm her, as is the case for so many other patients in New Jersey and New York.
Cannabis is safe. Cannabis is effective, for PTSD and countless medical conditions – especially in its natural, dried-flower form.
The United States’ treatment of its military veterans is a disgrace, in so many ways. Medical and social services made available to veterans are inadequate.
PTSD is at epidemic proportions for military veterans in the U.S. But after fighting for their Country, many of these veterans now must fight their own government – to try to get the safe, beneficial cannabis medicine they need.
The further irony is that New York has banned smoking cannabis for “public health reasons”, but it does sell vape cartridges. As everyone now knows, these unregulated/partially-regulated vapes are causing an outbreak of serious respiratory illnesses, and now at least 7 deaths – not from the cannabis but from unsafe additives.
Smoking cannabis flower isn’t killing anyone. Indeed, until cannabis is fully legal in the United States – and properly regulated – dried flower products probably represent the safest way to consume cannabis. The obvious exception is people who already have some sort of respiratory disorder.
Investors know that the recreational side of the cannabis industry is still in its infancy: partially legalized in the U.S., only partially rolled out in Canada. But investors also need to remain aware that even the older, medicinal-use cannabis market still offers enormous upside.
More jurisdictions still need to approve medicinal cannabis. More medical conditions need to be approved for medicinal use of cannabis. More access needs to be provided for medicinal cannabis users. More product variety is needed for these medicinal users, to properly address their medical needs.
All of this spells continued growth for medicinal cannabis.
The recreational cannabis market represents the largest revenue pie for the legal cannabis industry over the long term. However, as noted in another Seed Investor article, currently (and for the foreseeable future) the medicinal market for cannabis provides the greatest revenue potential.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is just one of hundreds of medical conditions where cannabis can play a safe and effective role therapeutically, but is still widely under-utilized. This means the growth potential of cannabis in its medicinal form remains exponential.
Published at Tue, 24 Sep 2019 10:00:04 +0000