Medical marijuana (MMJ) is now part of the fabric of prescription medicine. It has been rebranded as medical cannabis (MC) to distinguish a medicinal treatment modality from recreational use. Hospital administrators and medical practitioners now have to learn the laws, rules, and regulations associated with prescribing MC and the differences among strains of the plant because product demand is surging.
People who store, prescribe, and dispense MC are under close scrutiny of local law enforcement and federal executive agencies including the Food and Drug Administration, the Medicaid Fraud Controls Unit, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Drug Enforcement Agency. There are a growing number of outsourcing companies that can help write policy guidelines, prescription criteria, product applications, and compliance procedures.
Medical Cannabis Use in Patient Care and Treatment
Cannabis has been used in America, England, and Europe since the nineteenth century. It was recommended by doctors and sold by traveling hawkers from the back of their wagons. Early physicians recommended MC as an analgesic, antipyretic, antidiuretic, antianorectic, antiemetic medicine, anticonvulsive muscle relaxant, and a relaxant to calm distressed women.
Prescribing MC from the marijuana plant is legal in twenty-five US states and Washington, DC, as of May 2016. The active chemical component is THC, which was first isolated at Israeli university labs in 1964. Various strains and strengths of MC have been prescribed for chronic pain management of Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, and cancer since the 1990s. It is smoked and vaporized, ingested as an edible liquid or pill, or applied as a balm, oil, and wax.
Pharmaceutical companies and start-ups have developed novel applications of MC. An Israeli start-up has the world’s first metered-dose dispenser, and others are in the works at start-ups around the world. British-based GW Pharmaceuticals is doing groundbreaking MC research to create medications for controlling seizures. OWC Pharmaceuticals is testing an MC-based cream to treat psoriasis and researching pharmaceutical uses of MC in treating multiple myeloma, fibromyalgia, PTSD, and migraines.
Medical Cannabis: Legal Threat to the Helping Professions
The federal government’s position remains: marijuana is a legally controlled substance. Growing, producing, storing, distributing, and possessing marijuana are subject to the laws of crime and punishment. US banks are loath to accept cash deposits from dispensaries where the products are sold. The raging conflict causes profound confusion and unintended consequences.
In Colorado, where marijuana is sold and consumed legally under state law, the Colorado Supreme Court in 2014 ruled against a quadriplegic man testing positive for prescription MC who was fired from his job. Patient demand for MC seems unstoppable where it is legal but restricted in states where it is not yet legal.