Cannabis as medical treatment still requires cultural acceptance
Accepting people for who they are comes with give and takes–the good and the bad, but it needs to be all-encompassing. Acceptance of those with mental illness in this country has fallen incredibly short, and even shorter when it comes to taking care of those folks. Many institutions have ignored the needs of these patients and not accepted what resources could benefit them–one of those resources being cannabis.
Consuming cannabis for medicinal purposes is nothing new; people have been using it for thousands of years to treat a wide variety of both physical and mental medical issues. According to a Psychiatric Times article in May of 2017, cannabis provides perceived relief for anxiety disorders, depression, PTSD, insomnia, and even schizophrenia. Since even before cannabis was legalized as a medical substance, activists and organizations like Americans for Safe Access have been advocating for the health benefits of the plant with the goal of safe access for those in need.
This issue comes down to access. Treatments for those with mental health issues has always been a complicated subject, but the result often is a one-size-fits-all approach with opioid prescription. While these medications may work for some individuals, the over-prescription of opioids in this country has created a crisis of opioid related addiction and deaths. Opioids are typically prescribed first, but cannabis is a more natural option that doesn't include organ destruction as a by-product. Prohibitions on cannabis must end. It’s time for the medical establishment to look further at using cannabis as an alternative to these addictive substances.
The United States can follow in the footsteps of our neighbors to the north and south. Countries like Canada have legalized and regulated the substance as well as contributed significant studies to its medicinal qualities, and as a result, have integrated its use more seamlessly into their society. Mexico has similarly legalized cannabis use. Even in our country, cannabis is widely regarded as a valid medicine, heralded in 1988 by former DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis Young as “one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.”
This is not to say that cannabis would be a perfect fit for everyone. Just like any medicinal substance, it’s important to consult with a doctor to see if it would be a right fit for the issues that you are dealing with, both physical and psychological. Cannabis specialists are already there–Dr. Jeffrey Hergenrather is an internationally-recognized cannabis clinician, based out of Sebastopol, who provides cannabis recommendations to those with serious medical conditions and consultations worldwide by phone and online appointments. There’s even the Society of Cannabis Clinicians, whose goal is to provide continuing education about the medical use of cannabis and best practices in clinical care. Plus, many cannabis advocacy groups hold informational sessions to educate those who are curious about its beneficial qualities, like the Sonoma County Cannabis Science and Education Forum being held on Oct. 28, 2022, in Petaluma.
At the end of the day it is crucial to create an open dialogue between doctors and patients about cannabis use as valid and effective treatment. Making cannabis a more accessible option and destigmatizing its use is the next step in crafting a more holistic and open-minded approach to treating mental illnesses. The fact that people in some US states tell other adults they can’t consume cannabis is strange. We are fortunate to live in California, which has begun the long road to normalizing an ancient herbal remedy that for but a short while produced felonies for mere possession.
Cannabis is an herb that provides relief, and part of accepting everyone for who they are is accepting what kind of medicine they need and supporting safe paths to access.
Craig Litwin was a top signature gatherer for Prop 215, served as mayor of Sebastopol where he co-authored one of the nation’s first dispensary ordinances. He is the CEO of 421 Group, a California cannabis consultancy with a HQ in Sebastopol, and a co-creator of Resourcery, a Sebastopol permitted and state licensed cannabis oil extractor, tincture and salve maker, and distributor.