The biggest determining factor for a person’s ability to treat illness with the medicine of their choice is geography.
Thanks to laws that vary from one state or province to another, cannabis patients living just miles apart must meet vastly different qualifying conditions to be eligible for treatment.
Although thirty three U.S. states and every province in Canada agree that medical cannabis can be beneficial for fighting a myriad of diseases and illnesses, the patchwork of laws and jurisdictions make it difficult for patients to get the medicine they need.
Many areas require patients to meet a host of qualifying conditions. However these conditions are above and beyond those required for any other prescriptions. If that wasn’t enough, the bureaucratic red tape required of both patients and doctors make cannabis the single hardest treatment to receive in North America.
Too Many Qualifying Conditions
Let’s say you’re an adult living in Arizona and your doctor suggests you try an opioid to manage your pain. The physician writes a prescription and the nearest pharmacy fills it. Upon retrieving the medicine, you may have to show ID. It’s a simple and easy process. But if the same physician decides a patient could benefit from medical cannabis, the procedure becomes labyrinthine.
Instead of simply calling in an order to Walgreens, the doctor and patient must both complete extensive paperwork. For patients, that includes filling out an online information form with their address, home phone number, the kind of medical license their primary care physician holds, their gender, two sets of fingerprints, and a fee ranging from $75 to $150. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Also, it’s not a one-and-done affair. Annoyingly, renewing medical cannabis licenses needs to happen regularly and that means submitting everything all over again.
And for all that, Arizona residents who meet the qualifying conditions and have one of the nine diseases that cannabis can legally treat, will receive a card they can take to a dispensary to receive their medicine.
If that same person moves to a new state, then forget it. They must start a new process all over again.
Is Medical Cannabis More Accessible in Canada?
In Canada, medical cannabis laws are somewhat federal, making it easier to travel and use a medical cannabis card throughout the country. Although it’s not necessarily simple.
Medical cannabis in Canada has coverage under the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) law. It states that all Canadians desiring to consume medicinal pot must meet certain qualifying conditions. This means getting diagnosed by a certified health professional (a doctor or nurse practitioner). Having no convictions for a cannabis-related crime is also a must.
Once you have a physician’s note, a medical cannabis license isn’t difficult to obtain. However, you may run into problems traveling. Medical cannabis patients who meet all the right qualifying conditions are encouraged to bring all their documents — this includes the medical cannabis license and prescription — with them while moving throughout the country. A medical cannabis license entitles travelers to carry more than the 30-gram limit set on recreational consumers. How it’s transported though (meaning what kind of carrying device it’s in, etc.) can vary from province to province. So be sure to check every province’s website before you travel there.
No End in Sight
In the U.S., qualifying conditions are subject to state guidelines and will not get less complex anytime soon. In fact, as time goes on, they may get more complicated. That’s because states are forever changing the medical cannabis laws by amending what cannabis can and cannot be prescribed for.
If those decisions sound like a doctor should make them, you’ll get no arguments here. But the U.S. state governments have strong feelings about the best way to regulate the country’s most popular illicit drug. For example, Hawaii will begin public hearings in October about whether the state’s medical cannabis laws should allow opioid use disorder withdrawal to the list of cannabis-eligible diseases. Once the public weighs in, lawmakers will have to decide if opioid addicts can have treatment with a natural substance.
If they decide it is, they may place more qualifying conditions and red tape in the process for procuring pot to treat it. There’s virtually no chance they’ll make it easier.
Who Decides on These Qualifying Conditions?
The varying qualifying conditions in the U.S. and Canada are short-sighted. The medical community is in broad agreement about who should receive treatment with cannabis. In early 2017, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine combed through over ten thousand research studies on medical cannabis that resulted in a list of one hundred scientific conclusions about the efficacy of medical cannabis.
And since then, science has only found more ways to use cannabis to help people.
The qualifying conditions are a ridiculous last-gasp attempt of anti-cannabis politicians to retain control of the health industrial complex for a bit longer, before their Big Pharma donors figure out a way to cash in on the burgeoning weed industry.