As several states across the US begin to take on a keen stance on cannabis legalisation, it’s important to remind ourselves of the debate between prescription and recreational cannabis.
While it is the same plant, cannabis prescribed to patients is intended for pain relief and soothing debilitating illnesses, while recreational cannabis is sold to consumers who want to enjoy themselves and experience a high, similar to alcohol.
In light of soaring demand, Colorado, California and Washington legalised cannabis on a recreational level. There is an abundance of reports about how it has boosted the economy, provided jobs and even lowered crime rate, but not much is said about those who have been prescribed cannabis since it was legalised medically more than a decade ago.
Not always a positive response
The charge for cannabis legalisation has surprisingly left mixed feelings among a number of residents in the US. Some have said that the commercial marijuana industry is “much like the Big Tobacco industry” and that they care more about making a profit than protecting public health.
According to a report from Colorado, the number of traffic fatalities has skyrocketed by 62% since legalisation of cannabis on a recreational level.
But health issues aside, even the most prominent of cannabis consumers, many of whom use it for medical reasons, are staunchly against the legalisation of cannabis recreationally.
In response to Leaf Desk’s article on Arizona’s failed attempt at cannabis legalisation, one Reddit user revealed how a lot of his friends voted no on a recent bill as they were “afraid of losing the protection their card gives them”.
It raises a good point. If people can willingly go to a store and purchase what some consider to be medicine for recreational purposes, this could remove legitimacy from those who use it for illnesses and re-create the stigma that the community has spent years trying to get rid of.
In a future where cannabis legalisation is an accepted feature of all society, the recreational aspect may phase out the medicinal as a whole and individuals requiring it for prescription may simply be directed straight to the dispensary with no need for a card anymore.
If, a few years later, a new president who upholds an opinion opposing cannabis decided to revert back to making cannabis federally illegal, suddenly medical patients would have no protection and be forced to revert back to seeking out their relief illegally and through the dodgy black market.
It’s undeniable that cannabis has a wealth of medicinal properties and is truly essential to a huge amount of people’s mental and physical health, but the danger with recreational legalisation is that the lawmakers and opposers will tarnish those who need it with those who use it for fun on park benches, which could eventually see the laws reversed out of their favour.
Many people still refer to cannabis as the ‘devil’s lettuce’ and although the plant has shed much of its bad representation and even holds a legal status in several places, the medical aspect of cannabis gives users some form of validity against those who still see a stigma surrounding it.
Complete legalisation could take the legitimacy away from the medical users and potentially lead to backlash in the form of lost jobs, general social stigma and being viewed as a typical ‘stoner’ as opposed to simply using a prescribed medicine.
Is money the only benefit of recreational legalisation?
One of the key arguments supporting cannabis legalisation is the tax revenue it would earn particular states. This is true, but are there any other benefits to outright legalising it for millions of people around the world?
The Leaf Desk recently reported on the ‘dark side’ of cannabis use, the report stated that it can increase the risk of developing psychosis, schizophrenia and other underlying issues in those prone to developing serious mental health issues, alongside the risk of addiction and teen usage delaying the brains development.
If people want legalised cannabis so they can treat anxiety, depression or pain injuries, they should be able to go to the doctor and receive a medical marijuana card without it being legalised recreationally.
The top recommended strains for medicinal use are mostly high-CBD or feature a 1:1 ratio of CBD to THC, this includes the commonly known Sativex form of medical cannabis extract used throughout 24 countries that also uses a 1:1 ratio.
Those looking to reach astro levels of ‘high’ usually opt for high-THC content strains which are often deemed to be much less medicinal in their properties and often cited as provoking mental health issues.
If the industry simply turns into one big cash grab, a worry for many medical cannabis users would be the THC heavy strains could eventually be prioritised over CBD dominant strains as a majority of users just desire to recreationally consume the products, and the consumers always win in a profit-dominated industry.
While many already complain about the exceedingly high price of available cannabis for both medical and recreational in the US, complete legalisation would drive the ever-increasing prices to inflate rapidly, possibly pricing many medical card holders out and putting these individuals at grave risk.
The cannabis industry needs to learn to walk before it can run
The industry has exploded over the past few years with CBD being sold in nearly every corner store while cannabis dispensaries are popping up quicker than alcohol stores.
However, surely with cannabis being illegal on a federal level, the industry needs to ensure those who are really in need get priority access to the plant, instead of those who want to use it to watch documentaries about space and time on a Wednesday night.
This is why the industry needs to learn to focus on the medical and health aspect of cannabis before they can focus on the multi-billion-dollar industry that is recreational use.
Medical marijuana card holders can end up being prosecuted for travelling with their prescriptions to states where cannabis users are still treated the same as violent criminals, these individuals most likely want to see the plant federally legalised first to enable them more freedom before turning heads to complete legalisation.
Numerous medical card holders would most likely prefer cannabis to be a legalised as a regulated medical compound first, before being turned into a huge profiteering industry and consequently being disregarded in favour of the financial gain sustained from recreational customers.
In states like Arizona where those with medical marijuana cards feel threatened by recreational legalisation, it begs the question: is it really worth it?