Has the cannabis industry forgotten about medicinal consumers?

Published Dec 14, 2019 12:00 p.m. ET
iStock / stefanamer

It wasn’t long ago that so much whispering about recreational marijuana could land you in hot water in Canada, but now, the industry is bursting at the seams. While this is most definitely a glorious time for most cannabis enthusiasts, the primary focus of the majority of marijuana businesses is on recreational dispensary consumers and their needs, leaving medicinal patients with very little to celebrate.

Has marijuana legalization positively impacted medical patients at all?

Most advocates agreed that marijuana legalization has not quite lived up to the hopes that so many Canadians initially had, but it is now easier, even for patients to buy legal weed to self-medicate. That might at first seem like another giant success in its own right, but patients are still having difficulty navigating the bureaucracy that surrounds medical marijuana, and those that are brave enough to try it without the aid of their doctor aren’t achieving sufficient results.

Some people manage to get by with self-medicating with little to no knowledge or guidance, but those individuals tend to suffer from less severe symptoms. Those with more complicated medical conditions are still left with restricted access to a medical marijuana card that can take months or longer to obtain, and even those that get one are typically told to head to their closest recreational dispensary for their supply of medicine.

Despite federal marijuana legalization being in full force for more than a year now, there is still not a single program or motivator for already practicing doctors or specialists to learn about the benefits of the plant. Though one might hope that this is merely a bug in the system, presenting kinks that need to be slowly worked out by educating our future doctors, nurses, and practitioners, that isn’t the case in Canada.

Students that are currently studying in hopes of filling roles where they might be responsible for prescribing medical cannabis aren’t learning anything about it right now, not unless they opt to take a specialized course on the matter, which is offered through less than 50% of Canadian colleges and universities. Those who wish to expand their knowledge in this field will more often than not have to take an entirely separate program in addition to their normal rigorous studies.

As most are already aware, students who are competing to enter the medical field, often don’t have the extra money or time to commit to such a specialized course, so there are few future doctors, nurses, psychologists, and specialist learning about medical cannabis in Canada. Though we would love to report that a lack of information to doctors is the only problem, that isn’t quite the entirety of the situation.

Is there any point in getting a medical marijuana card in Canada?

You would think that a country which has legalized cannabis and recognizes a medicinal benefit from using cannabinoids would have done something in the past year to make prescriptions a normal part of health insurance, but most patients are still stuck paying for the entirety of their prescription, with select few exceptions that allow for coverage of a consumption device like a vaporizer.

This barrier alone is a major reason as to why so many Canadians still don’t really have the choice between medical marijuana and pharmaceuticals, as only one is considered standard leaving so many patients with a prescription and no way to pay for it. The reality is still pretty grim for medical cannabis consumers, but that doesn’t mean that there is no longer any valid reason to get a medical marijuana card. Though you have to dig a bit to find them, there are a few different ways that a medical marijuana card can make things a bit easier for patients including:

1. Reduced cost

Some producers and even the occasional recreational dispensary will offer medicinal patients a reduced cost with proof of a valid medical marijuana card. Though not all insurance companies will cover cannabis or related goods, there is often a partial coverage for delivery devices like vaporizers that can dramatically reduce the overall cost of a prescription.

2. Verification of necessity

Not everyone is in love with the idea of legal weed, and that sometimes means that patients feel awkward and lack the confidence to reveal their consumption habits to friends or family, but a medical marijuana card can help by providing written verification of the necessity from a doctor that will be hard for anyone to argue with.

3. Medical only clubs

Though they are rare, there are some incredibly helpful clubs and groups that focus on educating those who need assistance with finding the right cannabis products, and in other aspects of life, like talking to family and friends, while offering a safe space for medical patients to openly share personal experiences about their naturally medicated journey.

4. Traveling

It is illegal to travel out of the country with pot even if you have a medical marijuana card, but it can help to smooth things over in situations where using cannabis for recreational purposes is an issue. One major example is driving since it is illegal to drive while under the influence of cannabis, medicinal patients can get some exemptions in this department with a valid medical marijuana card.

5. Access to CBD flowers

CBD flowers are a rare find at any recreational dispensary, but with a medical marijuana card in Canada, you can get high-quality CBD buds that can offer all the wonderful benefits to help ease many symptoms without the psychoactive effects. It might not be enough to work for everyone, but for those who it does, this can often be a game-changer in terms of successful treatment.

In conclusion

The fact that so many Canadians are enjoying marijuana legalization right now is a massive victory, but we still have a long way to go before the system will be anywhere near adequate for some of the most vulnerable consumers in the country. An excellent first step would be to legally require those who hold positions where they can prescribe medical marijuana to take yearly updates refresher courses on how to help their patients.

Next, we need to ensure a minimum prescription coverage for those who cannot afford to fill their required prescriptions, which will allow patients to consider cannabis as a viable option long term. Cancer patients and anyone who is suffering from a debilitating or painful medical condition should not have to go without a better quality of life because they can’t afford to pay for it.

Finally, Canadians need a more in-depth system that puts an emphasis on the importance of medical marijuana. One that establishes rules and guidelines so that patients with a medical marijuana card are provided rights and protections in case those right are ever infringed upon. We need affordability, safety, and protections for Canadian medical patients to truly benefit the most.

Witnessing the next evolution of stoner stereotypes

Author

Related posts