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Medical Refugees: Why Families Move from Home to Find Care

Multiple studies have shown that medical marijuana can have positive health benefits and treat certain diseases. But, marijuana is federally illegal in the United States and that can make accessing healthcare tricky for those that live in states without legal medical marijuana laws. Despite the positive endorsements abroad, marijuana treatments have yet to be endorsed by the federal government, much to the dismay of those seeking care.

Currently, cannabis laws in America are confusing and difficult to explain. There is a disconnect between federal and state governments that is forcing families to uproot and move to states with sensible marijuana laws so that they can legally access their medicine. Below, we discuss the murkiness of marijuana laws, and why American patients need safe access to care now.

Confusion: State and Federal Law Disconnect

The United States federal government has not yet endorsed marijuana, which is currently still classified as a schedule 1 drug. This bars any governmental agency from formally studying and verifying the efficacy of marijuana and cannabinoid treatments. But, certain states have reformed their marijuana laws and allowed access to either medical or recreational marijuana. This has lead to people discovering the powerful effects of cannabis-based treatments, and even moving to those states where they can safely access their care.

Further confusing is the fact that some popular cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol (CBD), can be  derived from industrial hemp – a close relative to marijuana that does not have the psychoactive effects associated with marijuana. Many people now consume hemp-derived cannabinoids in their daily routine to boost their overall wellness and combat an array of ailments. But, marijuana also contains high amounts of cannabinoids and can provide similar but different care – which is the beginning of the confusion.

Industrial Hemp is Legal, Marijuana is Not

Under the 2014 Farm Bill, industrial hemp became federally legal to produce in the United States once again– but marijuana is still only legal in certain states and remains illegal at the federal level. Industrial hemp products such as oils, seeds, and soaps have been legally imported and widely available to American consumers for years. Now, American hemp and cannabinoid-rich hemp products are increasing in quality and availability across the United States. However, marijuana products are still only available in certain legal states. The varying degrees of legality on the state level, compounded by the federal government’s prolonged delay in rescheduling marijuana makes understanding its legal status confusing, and requires detailed knowledge of the legal nuances on a state-by-state basis.

The differences in state laws, and the federal government’s refusal to acknowledge and explore the potential benefits of marijuana and cannabinoids has left patients confused and scared. It has even led some to defy state marijuana laws, and illegally possess cannabis so that they can care for their families. One north Texas family risks imprisonment by giving their child medical marijuana to treat her cerebral palsy – which causes her to hit and harm herself. 

Unfortunately, these stories are all too common and only represent a fraction of the families doing the same thing: risking incarceration so that they can provide care for their loved ones.

Patients Need Care Now

A study in the United Kingdom found high concentrations of cannabinoids could reduce the frequency and duration of seizures in children with epilepsy, and a study in Tehran found that topical application worked against symptoms associated with Multiple Sclerosis, and may even help those suffering MS manage their disease. The Center for Disease Control estimates that 5.1 million Americans are currently suffering from epilepsy, which is staggering. 

The studies performed abroad help prove the efficacy of medical marijuana and cannabinoid treatments, and illustrate that the United States needs to reschedule marijuana so that abundant medical studies can be performed.

The Majority of Americans Now Support

In October of 2016, The GALLUP Polling found that 60% of Americans now support full marijuana legalization. The poll found that marijuana’s popularity grew among all age groups, regardless of political affiliation. This wave of support has been increasing since the 1960’s but has surged over recent decades. The data from 2016 suggests that support for marijuana legalization is at an all time high in America, which means that it’s time for our elected officials to follow the will of the people and reform archaic marijuana laws.

Advocate for Care

Cannabis laws in America are confusing, and they’re negatively impacting families across state lines. It’s time for legislative reform so that Americans can have more healthcare choices. You can become a medical marijuana advocate by calling your state representative and urging them to pass medical marijuana legislation. Or, visit Norml.org for more information about you can get involved and help millions in America have safe access to their healthcare.

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