The Health Consequences of Keeping Cannabis Illegal

Cannabis remaining illegal might pose as the most costly delusion in modern medicine. The most impactful repercussions we face are those to our individual health—but they don’t stop there.

While this plant has been used as medicine for potentially thousands of years, having being listed on the U.S Pharmacopoeia from 1851 until 1942 to treat over 100 illnesses, it now continues to face an uphill battle whose most serious casualty in a loss is the health of the population.

For many who have found relief from Cannabis for a variety of ailments: whether it’s preventing epileptic seizures, experiencing the subsidence of nausea, or even just feeling a little more at ease in dealing with chronic pain— they’re lucky if they reside in a state where these products are legal.

One family in Northern Ireland must deal with the reality that, without the Cannabis oil they use to treat their son Billy’s rare form of epilepsy, he may die from the seizures he endures. Recently, the Department of Health ordered their physician to stop prescribing Cannabis oil to their son. Until that point, Cannabis had been the only substance administered which sufficiently stopped Billy’s seizures. And Billy is far from the only one denied access through illegality, or quasi-legal ambiguity.

Not only are there repercussions in the battle of maintaining one’s individual health, but there are also implications to the health of the broader community in which we live.

A report published in the Journal of Addiction titled: Global Statistics on Alcohol, Tobacco & Illicit Drug Use—2017 Status Report found that tobacco is by far the most harmful substance being used on the planet, with alcohol coming in second. What this report also found was that at comparable or even greater widespread use of these substances; they were less damaging overall, in terms of mortality rates, to more affluent communities. This makes sense right? Those with money can afford the health care necessary to repair damages they’ve incurred.

What’s promising are the studies showing the role Cannabis can play in fighting addiction to these substances.

The National Institute of Health, in a study examining potential effects from CBD on tobacco use, found that for those being treated with CBD, cigarette use went down 40% during treatment. Early studies on alcohol abuse are suggesting that Cannabis may also play a role in curbing addiction to this as well.

However, even though multiple studies have shown that Cannabis can play a significant role in recovery, many who could benefit from it aren’t allowed to have it. We need to be the voice of change in getting this medicine to those who need it, and fight vigilantly for those without the tools to fight for themselves.

Some of the most vocal advocates for studying Cannabis were once adamantly opposed to it. That is to say they were until they saw firsthand someone whose life had been impacted beneficially by it. I’m not recommending you change the way you think because someone else has. But when Belita Nelson, DEA spokesperson from 1994-2008, admits that some of the first words spoken to her when she began the position were: “Marijuana is safe, we know it’s safe. It’s our cash cow and we will never give up”—maybe it’s at least worth questioning.

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