Listening to medical cannabis users tell their stories is a fascinating experience. You could almost call it a journey. While there are some similarities, just about every story has some unique aspects. It just goes to show how individual a thing medical cannabis is.
If we tried to categorize medical cannabis patients based on how they came to start using the drug, we could probably place most of them into one of three categories:
- Previous recreational users
- Those with knowledge but no experience
- Those with neither knowledge nor experience.
Looking at each of these groups in more depth might lead to a better understanding of how people feel about medical cannabis. What you read below constitutes mere observations gleaned from online research. Nothing you read should be taken as gospel.
Previous Recreational Users
The drive to legalize marijuana did not gain traction in this country until the late 1970s and early 80s. And even then, California only became the first state to recognize medical cannabis in 1996. That was just 26 years ago. Do not believe for a minute that people weren’t self-medicating long before states began enacting medical programs.
A fair percentage of patients now using medical cannabis were previous recreational users. Some of them used simply to get high, only to find out later that cannabis had medical applications relating to their physical maladies. Others discovered on their own that recreational use helped them feel better. They eventually went medical as a matter of informed choice.
Knowledge but No Experience
The next group consists of people who had a fair amount of knowledge but no experience prior to obtaining their medical marijuana cards. You can find plenty of examples online of people who researched cannabis to treat everything from glaucoma to epilepsy. They knew there was a good chance that cannabis would help them. Yet they didn’t dare go down that road until their states legalized it.
There are no clear numbers defining how large this group is. The assumption is that it is smaller than the first group. How much smaller? It would not be appropriate to even guess.
Neither Knowledge nor Experience
The third category of medical cannabis users is arguably the smallest. These are people who came to cannabis with neither knowledge nor experience. They heard someone talking about it in relation to their condition and they decided to look into it. Or maybe they learned about it from the family doctor. Who knows?
Given that doctors are still reluctant to recommend medical cannabis, it is hard to believe this group is very large. But that should change over time. Now that three dozen states have medical cannabis programs, doctors have more opportunity to learn about the drug’s efficacy. As they learn, it stands to reason they would be willing to talk with patients.
What They Have in Common
More important than the three classifications are what they all have in common: a shared interest in a plant that provides symptom relief for a number of different conditions. The vast majority of medical cannabis patients use the drug to manage chronic pain. Other conditions include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), HIV/AIDS, epilepsy, fibromyalgia, cancer pain, and anxiety/depression.
Park City, Utah’s medical marijuana dispensary Deseret Wellness says their state is very conservative about medical cannabis applications. Most are. Even states with both medical programs and recreational use are specific about how doctors can prescribe the drug. It is all about efficacy and patient safety.
Do you use medical cannabis? If so, which of the three groups do you belong to? It would be interesting to know the actual breakdown.